Although anyone can have high intraocular pressure, according to the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, people over 40, of African American descent, and those with a family history of high intraocular pressure or glaucoma are most at risk of developing this serious eye condition.

What is intraocular pressure?

Intraocular pressure is the amount of fluid pressure in your eye. When that pressure is too high, it’s referred to as intraocular hypertension.

What causes it?

Several factors can lead to high intraocular pressure, including excessive aqueous production. Aqueous is the clear liquid that is naturally produced by the eye. In an eye with normal aqueous production, the fluid flows through the pupil into the chamber near the front of the eye and then drains into the outer areas of the chamber. When there’s too much liquid or slow drainage of the liquid, pressure can build in the eye.

Certain medications can also cause high intraocular pressure in some patients, such as steroids used to treat asthma and in eye drops often prescribed for those recovering from LASIK and other refractive surgery.  Eye trauma can also cause the eye to produce or retain too much fluid. Also, the presence of other eye conditions, such as corneal arcus (clouding of the peripheral cornea), have been associated with intraocular hypertension.

How is it treated?

If you’re diagnosed with ocular hypertension, your provider might prescribe eye drops to reduce your eye pressure to decrease the risk of damage to your eyes. Because these medications can have side effects, some eye care providers may choose to monitor your intraocular pressure and take action only if you show signs of developing glaucoma. If your provider does prescribe medication and it doesn’t reduce your eye pressure to normal levels, your provider may recommend other treatment, including surgery.

How is it detected?

Since there are no outward signs of intraocular hypertension, it’s important to visit your VSP provider annually for a WellVision Exam®—the most comprehensive eye exam, designed to assess your vision and the overall health of your eyes. As part of your exam, your provider will check for early signs of high intraocular pressure in your eyes.

The content of this article is for general informational awareness purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your eyecare doctor or physician for actual advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This article is the work of the attributed author and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of VSP. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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Judy Nguyen, O.D., is the optometrist at Bella Eye Care Optometry in Newark, CA.