What Is High Eye Pressure?

High eye pressure is typically diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam.
Like blood pressure, eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury.
Medicated eye drops are a common method of treating high eye pressure.
The anatomy of the human eye includes the cornea, retina, lens, pupil, optic nerve, and more.
Routine eye exams are painless and can help detect vision or eye problems -- such as signs of eye pressure -- early.
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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2014
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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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