April Newsletter: Does Ocular Hypertension Affect Your Vision?

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Does Ocular Hypertension Affect Your Vision?

Ocular hypertension happens when the pressure inside your eye becomes too high. The condition doesn't cause any signs or symptoms but may increase your risk of developing glaucoma.

What Is Ocular Hypertension?

Intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye) helps your eyeball keep its round shape. Optometrists become concerned when your pressure is 21 millimeters of mercury (mmHG) or higher. High ocular pressure, also known as ocular hypertension, doesn't always affect your vision or damage your eyes but can be a warning sign.

Some people with ocular hypertension eventually develop glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the optic nerve due to abnormally high pressure in the eye. Optic nerve damage interferes with the nerve's ability to send electrical signals from the eyes to the brain and makes it difficult for the brain to produce clear, complete images. As a result, you may notice a decrease in peripheral (side) vision or blind spots.

What Causes Ocular Hypertension?

Ocular hypertension occurs due to a drainage problem in the eye. Aqueous humor, the clear fluid that fills the inside of your eye, is responsible for maintaining normal pressure inside the eye. If your eye makes too much fluid or the fluid doesn't drain properly, the pressure inside the eye rises.

Ocular hypertension risk factors include:

  • Age. If you're 40 or older, you have a greater chance of developing the condition.
  • Race. Hispanics and African Americans have a higher risk for ocular hypertension, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  • Systemic (Overall) Blood Pressure. Your risk may also increase if your blood pressure is relatively low or higher than normal.
  • Family History. Have others in your family been diagnosed with ocular hypertension or glaucoma? Your chances of an ocular hypertension diagnosis may be higher
  • Other Factors. You may also be at increased risk of developing ocular hypertension if you have high myopia (nearsightedness), have taken steroid medication for a long time, have a thin central cornea, or have certain conditions or diseases, like diabetes, pseudoexfoliation syndrome or pigment dispersion syndrome.

When Is Treatment Needed?

High intraocular pressure doesn't always damage the optic nerve, but it is a concerning sign. Whether you need treatment or not depends on your pressure reading and risk factors. If your pressure is only slightly high, your optometrist may recommend regular monitoring and pressure checks.

If your intraocular pressure is too high, you may be more likely to develop glaucoma. If this is the case, your eye doctor may prescribe special eye drops that lower the intraocular pressure and reduce your risk of glaucoma. You'll need regular exams to check the health of your optic nerve and ensure that the drops are working.

Prescription eye drops could help you avoid vision loss if you have ocular hypertension, even if you haven't noticed any symptoms. According to a research study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, eye drops could delay or prevent primary open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma gradually damages the optic nerve and doesn't cause sudden vision changes. Unfortunately, the damage is usually permanent by the time people notice vision loss.

More than 1,600 people between the ages of 40 and 80 with high intraocular hypertension participated in the study. One group received prescription eyedrops to lower intraocular pressure, while the only group was only monitored. After five years, 9.5% of people in the observation group had developed open-angle glaucoma, compared to 4.45% who used prescription eyedrops.

Scheduling regular visits with your optometrist can help you avoid the devastating effects of ocular hypertension. A quick, simple test during your exam provides important information on eye pressure and helps your eye doctor determine if you need treatment if you have ocular hypertension.

Reduce your risk of ocular hypertension with a visit to the optometrist. Contact our office to schedule your appointment.


American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is Ocular Hypertension?, 5/15/2023

American Academy of Ophthalmology: Eye Pressure, 5/24/2022

JAMA Ophthalmology: The Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study: A Randomized Trial Determines That Topical Ocular Hypotensive Medication Delays or Prevents the Onset of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, 6/2002

Harvard Health Publishing: Who Needs Treatment for Ocular Hypertension, 9/22/2022

Bright Focus Foundation: Ocular Hypertension and Glaucoma, 8/23/2021

National Eye Institute: Glaucoma, 11/15/2023

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