Having eye pressure that is too high can be a serious problem for your eyes. Often eye pressure is a symptom of a more serious problem. Understanding the causes and symptoms of eye pressure problems can help you to discover this problem as early as possible so that you can get the treatment that you need. Remember that regular eye care appointments are a great way to monitor your eyes and to ensure that your eye pressure is at a healthy level.
Eye Pressure- What Is It?
The pressure inside of your eye is known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury. Normally a healthy IOP falls within the range of 10-21 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). If your eye pressure is higher than 21 mm Hg it is known as ocular hypertension. Ocular hypertension is not a disease in and of itself, but it is often a warning sign for other more serious conditions like glaucoma. Increased eye pressure is a common symptom of many eye diseases.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a term that is used to describe several diseases that damage the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve is a group of more than 1 million nerve fibers. It connects the retina to the brain and is the highway that the eye uses to send visual signals to the brain. Your optic nerve is essential for vision. Glaucoma is a serious condition and often leads to blindness, especially without treatment.
Glaucoma and Intraocular Pressure
High eye pressure often precedes glaucoma. For this reason it is important to monitor those with an IOP of 21 mm Hg or higher more closely to watch for signs of glaucoma. Those with high eye pressure are at an increased risk for glaucoma. When the eye has too much pressure it may damage the optic nerve.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. If it is not treated properly it can lead to blindness, which is one reason why careful monitoring of those with increased IOP is so important. Even with treatment glaucoma can lead to vision loss and commonly does in about 10% of glaucoma cases. Glaucoma affects every age from infant to the elderly and everyone is at risk.
Higher than normal IOP levels can lead to glaucoma, but they do not necessarily mean that a person will develop glaucoma. Conversely some people develop glaucoma with an IOP in the normal ranges. Every eye is different and some people can withstand higher levels of eye pressure without damage to their optic nerve. Your eye care professional will be able to better help you determine a healthy level of eye pressure for your body by performing a comprehensive eye exam that includes dilation.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
If you have glaucoma treatment is essential to retaining as much of your vision as possible. Even with treatment approximately 10% of those with glaucoma still experience vision loss. There are many different treatment options available to those with glaucoma. Let’s look at a few of the many options in a little depth.
- Medication- Medication is the most common type of treatment for those with early stages of glaucoma. Some people take oral medications, others use eye drops and some use a combination of both. Eye drops can be used to lower your IOP. Some medications may help to reduce the amount of fluid that the eye produces or can cause fluids to drain from the eye. Taking glaucoma medication is very important as it can help delay and prevent vision loss.
- Laser Surgery- Laser surgery is another treatment option for those with glaucoma. This treatment option is usually done in combination with other treatments such as medication. Laser surgery can reduce the pressure in the eyes. Generally one eye is treated at a time and the effects will wear off over time so the procedure may need to be repeated periodically. During the procedure a laser is aimed at the eye that will burn larger holes in the mesh-like area found inside of the eye. This allows fluid to drain more effectively and helps to reduce eye pressure.
- Surgery- Surgery may also be used to create a new or larger drainage hole in the eye to reduce eye pressure. This surgery is typically performed in an operating room and can have some serious complications such as infection. Some people even experience vision loss after a glaucoma surgery. This procedure reduces eye pressure effectively in about 60-80% of cases.
Increased eye pressure can lead to glaucoma if it is not treated properly. If you have an elevated IOP make sure that you regularly visit your eye doctor. This consistent eye monitoring can help your doctor to determine if your eye pressure is becoming glaucoma so that you can begin treatment. Treatment of glaucoma is important for keeping your vision as good as possible.
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