Ocular hypertension means the pressure in your eye, or your intraocular pressure (IOP), is higher than normal levels. Elevated IOP is also associated with glaucoma, which is a more serious condition that causes vision loss and optic nerve damage. However, ocular hypertension alone does not damage your eyes or vision.
Studies suggest that 2% to 3% of the general population may have ocular hypertension.
Signs and Symptoms of Ocular Hypertension
You cannot tell by yourself that you have ocular hypertension because there are no outward signs or symptoms such as pain or redness. At each comprehensive eye exam, your eyecare practitioner will measure your IOP and compare it to normal levels.
During a routine comprehensive eye exam, a tonometer is used to measure your IOP. Your eye typically is numbed briefly with eye drops, and a small probe gently rests against your eye's surface. Other tonometers direct a puff of air onto your eye's surface to indirectly measure IOP.
What Causes Ocular Hypertension?
Anyone can develop ocular hypertension. Although, it is most common in African Americans, people over the age of 40, those with family history of ocular hypertension or glaucoma, those with diabetes, and people with high amounts of nearsightedness.
IOP may become elevated due to excessive aqueous fluid production, or inadequate drainage of this fluid from the eye. Certain medications, such as steroids, and ocular trauma can also cause higher than normal IOP measurements.
Ocular Hypertension Treatment
People with ocular hypertension are at increased risk for developing glaucoma. Therefore, some eye doctors prescribe medicated eye drops to lower IOP in cases of ocular hypertension. These medications can be expensive and may have side effects so your eye doctor may also choose to monitor your IOP and only take action if you show signs of developing glaucoma. If you have ocular hypertension, your IOP should be measured at the intervals your eye doctor recommends because of the increased risk for developing glaucoma.