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What is High Eye Pressure?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated May 17, 2024
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High eye pressure is a serious medical condition characterized by increased intraocular pressure that can lead to blindness. It is possible for some individuals to have high eye pressure, commonly known as glaucoma, and remain asymptomatic, meaning they experience no discernible symptoms. Though damage caused by this progressive condition is irreversible, treatment generally involves the administration of medications to reduce eye pressure and prevent disease progression. Individuals whose glaucoma proves unresponsive to treatment may require surgery to reduce their eye pressure.

Glaucoma occurs when intraocular pressure within the eyeball increases and causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve. Aqueous humor is a naturally occurring lubricant produced within the eyeball. As aqueous humor is created, excess fluid is filtered through a meshwork of drainage passages located in the front of the eye. It is when the filtering system, known as the trabecular meshwork, becomes clogged or otherwise impaired that aqueous humor may accumulate and increase intraocular pressure.

There are varying degrees to which high eye pressure may present itself that are entirely dependent on the drainage rate of the aqueous humor. Frequently, glaucoma may develop as a result of narrowed or bulging passages within the meshwork due to the natural formation of the eye. Some forms of glaucoma may be induced by impaired circulation caused by the existence of atherosclerosis that restricts blood flow to the optic nerve. Other glaucomatous presentations may result from meshwork blockages induced by the collection of pigment granules, as may be diagnosed in very physically active individuals, such as athletes.

A diagnosis of high eye pressure is generally made following a comprehensive eye exam performed by an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor. Individuals will generally undergo a battery of tests to evaluate scope of their vision field and the intraocular pressure of their eyes. The condition of the optic nerve may also be assessed to check for signs of damage that may occur with an increase in eye fluid pressure.

Due to the progressive nature of glaucoma, symptoms often appear in stages. The manifestation and severity of a patient’s symptoms is generally dictated by the type of glaucoma he or she may have. Individuals with slowly progressing glaucoma may often experience a reduction in their peripheral vision that gradually gives way to more pronounced tunnel vision. When the symptoms are acute in onset, individuals may experience moderate to severe eye discomfort accompanied by vomiting and nausea. Additional signs may include eye irritation, redness, and vision changes.

Damage to the optic nerve that is induced by high eye pressure symptoms is irreversible; therefore treatment is centered on reducing intraocular pressure and slowing disease progression. In most cases, if high eye pressure is diagnosed early, vision loss may be prevented. Medicated eye drops designed to reduce the production and facilitate the drainage of aqueous humor are frequently prescribed. Some individuals may be given additional oral medications to aid with reducing their eye fluid pressure when medicated eye drops are not sufficient. Surgical procedures may also be performed to reduce eye pressure and facilitate aqueous humor drainage for individuals with persistent moderate to severe glaucomatous symptoms.

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Discussion Comments
By Rundocuri — On Jan 11, 2015

@spotiche5- A more invasive medical procedure is not necessarily the best type of treatment, and sometimes less invasive treatments are best. If your mother's eye pressure responds to eye drops, that is great because it means she is able to avoid a more invasive procedure like laser treatments.

The fact that your mother's doctor gave her a choice of high eye pressure treatments is also a good sign in my opinion. It think this means that her issues were caught early and are very manageable. I think it also means that her doctor is monitoring her closely, and will advise her to switch treatment routes if need be. In other words, I don't think that you have to worry, just make sure that your mother always follows up with her doctor as recommended.

By Talentryto — On Jan 11, 2015

@spotiche5- If your mother's doctor gave her the choice between using eye drops and having laser treatments, I'm sure that both are effective for her high eye pressure issues. As long as her doctor is also frequently monitoring her eye pressure to make sure it doesn't get higher, I think your mother is getting the care that is right for her.

By Spotiche5 — On Jan 10, 2015

My mother was recently diagnosed with high eye pressure, and was given the choice between laser treatments and eye drops. She chose to begin using eye drops, but I'm wondering if this is the best treatment for her because the use of lasers seems like it would be more effective.

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