Up to 6 million adults in the USA are at increased risk of developing glaucoma due to ocular hypertension.
Ocular hypertension represents the highest known risk factor for glaucoma, also known as the ‘Silent Thief of Sight’.
What is ocular hypertension?
Ocular hypertension affects over 5% of all adults and occurs when the pressure inside the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP) is higher than the normal eye pressure.
Ocular hypertension can be usually diagnosed if IOP is above 18mmHg.
With ocular hypertension, the eye does not properly drain fluid, causing the eye pressure to build up. Higher than normal eye pressure can cause glaucoma, a disease where eye pressure permanently damages the optic nerve, causing vision loss and eventually blindness.
Ocular hypertension is the highest risk factor for developing glaucoma.
With ocular hypertension, the optic nerve seems normal and there are no signs of visual loss. However, people with ocular hypertension — often called “glaucoma suspects” by the medical community — are more likely to develop glaucoma than people without the condition.
What are the symptoms of ocular hypertension?
There are usually no noticeable signs or symptoms of ocular hypertension.
Since you can have high eye pressure and not know it, it is important to have regular eye exams so your eye doctor can assess your eye pressure and check for the early signs of glaucoma.
What causes ocular hypertension?
The eye continually produces a clear fluid known as aqueous humor, this fluid is inside the eye and moves through a space behind the cornea, the anterior (or aqueous) chamber.
This flow of fluid removes waste products from the cornea and provides a liquid surround allowing the lens to change focus. To maintain constant pressure an equal amount of fluid flows out of your eye.
If the aqueous humor does not flow properly out of the eye, pressure builds up and causes ocular hypertension. If this high pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, the result is the sight-threatening disease, glaucoma, which causes irreparable vision loss.
If you suspect you might have high eye pressure, contact an eye doctor near you.
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Who is at risk for ocular hypertension?
While anyone can develop ocular hypertension, some people are at a higher risk of developing this condition. They include:
- African-Americans and Hispanics
- people over age 40
- people who have diabetes or high blood pressure
- people who are very myopic (nearsighted)
- people who have had eye injuries or surgery
- people who take long-term steroid medications
- those with a family history of ocular hypertension or glaucoma
- those with pseudoexfoliation syndrome (PXF) or pigment dispersion syndrome
How is ocular hypertension treated?
It is important to treat the high eye pressure before it causes glaucoma and permanent damage to the optic nerve and vision loss.
If your eye pressure is only slightly elevated, your eye doctor may decide not to start treatment right away and instead regularly monitor your pressure.
However, your eye doctor may decide that you need medicated eye-drops to lower your intraocular pressure. Your doctor may also prescribe more than one medicine. Sometimes, surgery is needed to lower eye pressure.
With early treatment options to help decrease your risk of glaucoma, you may be able maintain good eye health and clear vision for life.
LEARN MORE: Guide to Eye Conditions
Schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you to diagnose and treat ocular hypertension so that you can protect your sight.
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