Ocular hypertension occurs when the pressure in the eye (known as intraocular pressure, or IOP) is above the range considered normal (often defined as above 21 mm Hg). It is distinguished from glaucoma, a more serious eye condition, in that there are no detectable changes in vision, no evidence of visual field loss and no damage to the optic nerve. Patients diagnosed with ocular hypertension have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
Ocular hypertension is the result of poor drainage of the aqueous humor (a fluid inside the eye). Essentially, this means that too much fluid enters the eye without being properly drained, causing high amounts of pressure to build up.
An injury to the eye, certain diseases and some medications may raise eye pressure. Anyone can develop ocular hypertension, but some are at higher risk than others. These include people who:
- Have a family history of ocular hypertension or glaucoma
- Have diabetes or high blood pressure
- Are 40 years of age and older
- Are of African American or Hispanic heritage
- Are very myopic (nearsighted)
- Take long-term steroid medications
- Have had eye injuries or surgery
- Have pigment dispersion syndrome or pseudoexfoliation syndrome (PXF)
Symptoms of Ocular Hypertension
Because it is rare to have symptoms with ocular hypertension, it is unlikely for patients to notice it on their own. However, if a regular eye exam schedule is maintained, an eye doctor can find it in routine testing.
During a regular eye exam, intraocular pressure is measured using a device called a tonometer. If elevated pressure is measured above 21 mm Hg during two or multiple visits, an eye doctor may diagnose ocular hypertension.
Treatment for Ocular Hypertension
It is important to lower high eye pressure before it results in vision loss or damage to the optic nerve. Ocular hypertension may put you at risk for developing glaucoma. Careful and frequent monitoring by an eye doctor is recommended for those with ocular hypertension.