What is Ocular Hypertension?
Ocular hypertension is pressure build-up inside the eye. This intraocular pressure is higher than average (measured in mmHg).
Many people with ocular hypertension do not have any symptoms. Because of this, you should get an eye exam regularly.
Eye exams can determine the condition causing high intraocular pressure. Detecting early signs of other eye conditions minimizes the likelihood of optic nerve damage.
5 Causes of Ocular Hypertension
Your eye constantly makes a clear liquid called aqueous humor. This enters the front section of the eye and supplies it with nutrition. An equal amount of fluid is also drained to maintain normal eye pressure.
Ocular hypertension occurs when your body is unable to maintain normal eye pressure. Five primary reasons can cause this to happen:
- Fluid accumulation in the eye. An increased amount of aqueous humor (eye fluid) can raise intraocular pressure
- Inadequate aqueous drainage. Due to structural differences in the eye, drainage channels may not correctly release fluid build-up; an example of this may be pigmentary glaucoma
- Certain medications. Corticosteroids and other drugs like tricyclic antidepressants may increase eye pressure
- Eye trauma. Damage to the eye caused by an accident or infection
- High blood pressure. People with high blood pressure or diabetes are at risk of developing ocular hypertension
Risk Factors of Ocular Hypertension
There are specific risk factors that can increase the risk of ocular hypertension. Race, age, and genetics can influence the development of this condition.
Those at risk for ocular hypertension include:
- Black people age 40 and older
- People with a family history of ocular hypertension and/or glaucoma
- People with extreme nearsightedness (myopia)
- People with diabetes
- People with pigment dispersion syndrome
- People with exfoliation syndrome
Your sleeping position can also affect your eye pressure. To avoid this, consider raising your head at a 20-degree angle to lower intraocular pressure.
Side Effects & Risks of Ocular Hypertension
Although not everyone with ocular hypertension will develop glaucoma, there is an increased risk of developing it. Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to blindness.
Eye pressure increases when the front of the eye doesn’t allow for proper fluid drainage. Elevated pressure can result in glaucoma.
Ocular hypertension can become serious if left untreated. Because of the risk of blindness, it’s important to maintain doctor visits and follow treatment regimens. This can prevent the progression of glaucoma or other damage to the eye.
Glaucoma vs. Ocular Hypertension
Glaucoma and ocular hypertension are not the same. Although they both have factors of high eye pressure.
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, and vision loss occurs. In many cases of glaucoma, this damage may result from high eye pressure.
Ocular hypertension occurs when you have raised eye pressure, but standard tests may not find any signs of structural or functional damage. This is how ocular hypertension is distinguished from glaucoma, as glaucoma shows optic nerve damage.
Nevertheless, people with ocular hypertension face a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Ocular hypertension is a leading risk factor for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).
How is Ocular Hypertension Diagnosed?
At first, ocular hypertension will not show any noticeable signs or symptoms. A comprehensive eye examination can help ophthalmologists diagnose properly and rule out any possible structural damage to the eye.
In these types of examinations, an ophthalmologist may assess the following:
- Visual acuity and visual fields
- Tonometry (used to measure intraocular pressure)
- Optic nerve damage (using keratometry readings)
- Signs of pigment dispersion, pseudoexfoliation, iritis, or trauma (using a slit lamp)
Ophthalmologists sometimes perform gonioscopy (to check the eye’s drainage angle) and assess for angle closure. Finally, they may also evaluate central corneal thickness.
Treatment Options for Ocular Hypertension
For people with ocular hypertension, medical treatment is the most common approach. Your doctor may also prescribe eye drops to reduce pressure.
They may also use the following medications:
- Alpha-adrenergic agonists
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
- Rho kinase inhibitor
- Miotic or cholinergic agents
In other cases, an eye doctor may also consider argon laser trabeculoplasty or selective laser trabeculoplasty. Both types of laser trabeculoplasty aim to ease and increase fluid outflow through the trabecular meshwork.
This procedure can decrease eye pressure. Selective laser trabeculoplasty is more commonly used because it is less destructive to the tissue.
How Do Doctors Determine Treatment for Ocular Hypertension?
An eye doctor may consider many factors when determining the most suitable treatment. These factors include:
- Risk of progression to glaucoma
- A person’s attitude about treatment
- A person’s age, health, and life expectancy
To minimize the likelihood of glaucoma progression or slow the disease's onset, maintain follow-up visits. The frequency of these visits may vary according to intraocular pressure reduction.
Home Remedies for Ocular Hypertension
Some remedies you can implement to help reduce your risk for glaucoma include:
- Follow a healthy diet
- Raise your head to an approximately 20-degree angle while sleeping
- Drink small amounts of liquid (less than a quart) throughout the day
- Exercise regularly
- Learn and practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques
What Foods Help With Lowering Eye Pressure?
Improving your eating habits can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. Consider eating meals that provide:
- Vitamins A, E, and C
- Minerals like zinc, copper, and selenium
You should also avoid drinking large amounts of coffee or energy drinks. If you don’t want to stop drinking coffee, you should at least reduce your caffeine intake. This is because caffeine can contribute to increased eye pressure.
What is the Prognosis for Ocular Hypertension?
The prognosis for ocular hypertension is favorable. To lower your chances of progressing to glaucoma or severe complications, maintain follow-up visits and adhere to prescribed medical treatments.
This decreases the risk of eye health complications, such as a progression to glaucoma. Although you can't always prevent glaucoma, regular follow-up visits can detect early damage to the optic nerve and control further progression.
Can You Prevent Ocular Hypertension?
You cannot prevent ocular hypertension. However, treatments are available to help reduce eye pressure.
You must attend frequent eye doctor visits and undergo clinical eye examinations to monitor any glaucoma progression. An eye doctor will adjust treatment accordingly to slow the disease's progression in its early stages.
How Can I Lower My Eye Pressure Fast?
Don’t drink more than a quart of any liquid quickly. This could cause your eye pressure to go up.
High levels of stress can also increase eye pressure. So, if you experience high stress, consider integrating relaxation and meditation exercises.
You may also need to eliminate certain medications, such as antihistamines. Speak with your doctor before removing any daily care medication.
Can You Cure Ocular Hypertension?
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), ocular hypertension has no cure. However, as mentioned before, there are ways to reduce the risk of ocular hypertension.
You can decrease the chances of eye damage by following prescribed treatments and regularly visiting your eye clinic. Monitoring your condition can help lower your risk of progression to glaucoma.
You can develop ocular hypertension when you have increased eye pressure. This condition can't be cured, but you can minimize its progression.
Ocular hypertension is caused by various factors influenced by race, age, and genetics. If left untreated, it can damage your optic nerves and cause vision loss or blindness.
Remember to visit your eye doctor regularly to monitor your eye's condition. Your eye doctor will provide treatments and other remedies to keep your eyes healthy.
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