According to a recent study done by Rebuild Your Vision, almost three million people in the United States have high pressure in their eyes, but only half of them know they have it. Although the high pressure in your eyes is not a disease, it can easily cause other serious eye problems, including blindness, if left untreated.
But what causes pressure in the eyes and how can it be reduced? This article will answer this and other related questions.
What Causes Pressure in the Eyes?
Elevated pressure in your eyes can occur unexpectedly and without symptoms. Unfortunately, eye pressure is as risky to your eyes as high blood pressure is to your whole body. High eye pressure is the first sign of glaucoma, one of the main causes of blindness. Here are the main causes of high eye pressure, also referred to as ocular hypertension.
1. Aqueous Humor Imbalance
The increased pressure in your eyes is mainly caused by an imbalance in the generation and removal of aqueous humor, the watery substance inside your eyes. If the channels through which this fluid is drained become damaged or blocked, they will cause a buildup of aqueous humor, resulting in increased pressure in your eyes. This problem can also lead to a damaged optic nerve.
Sometimes there will be no physical signs of damage to your release channels, despite the unexpected disruption of the natural system of drainage in your eyes. This disruption can be caused by injuries to the eyes, especially sport-related injuries or car accidents. Any injury to the eye will probably cause damages to the vital drainage channels, initiating the increase in eye pressure.
2. Age and Genetic Factors
If you are over 40 years old, have thin corneas, or come from a family with a history of glaucoma, you face a greater risk of developing excess pressure in your eyes. Studies have also shown that African Americans are at a statistically higher risk of developing this eye problem than other races.
3. Eye Problems and Medication
If you use steroids, including the steroid eye drops prescribed for patients who have undergone eye surgery, you are highly susceptible to high eye pressure. You are also likely to develop this problem if you are suffering from other eye complications such as pseudoexfoliation syndrome, which is related to age and genetics. This eye condition is caused by the accumulation of protein fibers in the eyes, blocking the free flow of fluid inside the eye.
Another common eye condition that can cause increased eye pressure is pigment dispersion syndrome. This condition also causes the accumulation of particles that prevent the free flow of fluids in the eyes. Consequently, grains of pigment escape from the iris, causing obstruction in the drainage channels.
If you already suffer from shortsightedness or farsightedness, you are at a higher risk of developing high eye pressure. Existing vision complications can weaken your eyes, making you more vulnerable to glaucoma as you grow old.
Symptoms of Eye Pressure
When the pressure inside your eyes is higher than normal, you are said to be suffering from ocular hypertension. Eye pressure is normally measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A normal eye should have a pressure ranging between 10 and 21 mm Hg. So, if your eye pressure is above 21 mm Hg, you have ocular hypertension.
Eye pressure is measured using a small device referred to as a tonometer. Over the years, the definition of ocular hypertension has evolved, but it can be safely defined as any condition that meets these criteria:
• Your eye pressure is higher than 21 mm Hg and the results remain consistent for two or more office visits.
• Your optic nerve looks normal.
• Results of your visual field testing, a test that assesses your side vision, do not show signs of glaucoma.
• No sign of any ocular infection.
Your eye specialist might also use a special technical referred to as gonioscopy to check whether your eye drainage system (commonly referred to as the angle) is closed or open. This procedure involves the use of a special contact lens to check your drainage channels to know if they are closed, open, or tapered.
It is also important to reiterate the fact that many people who have elevated eye pressure do not know they have it because they don’t experience any symptoms. Therefore, the only way this problem can be detected early is through a regular eye examination. These checkups will also help you to rule out damages to your optic nerve due to increased pressure.
Your visit to the ophthalmologist is very important in the assessment of ocular hypertension and other ocular diseases that could cause elevated intraocular pressure. During this assessment, the ophthalmologist will ask you several questions regarding the following:
• Ocular history
• Eye pain or soreness
• Multicolored halos
• Past eye diseases, surgery, or eye/head trauma
During your regular eye checkups, you should ask your doctor some important questions relating to the health of your eyes. The questions include:
• Is my eye pressure too high?
• Do you see signs of internal eye damage caused by an injury?
• Are there any optic nerve defects?
• Is my side vision normal?
• Do I need treatment?
How to Reduce Eye Pressure
One of the common questions that people ask when they discover they have ocular hypertension is: How can I reduce the pressure in my eyes? Apart from seeking medical treatment, there are several other lifestyle and home remedies you can try. These remedies include:
• Eating healthy foods. Although a healthy diet will not prevent your ocular hypertension from worsening, it will provide you with the necessary nutrients that keep your eyes healthy, including zinc, selenium, copper, and antioxidant vitamins such as Vitamin E, C, and A.
• Regular exercises. Certain exercises can help you reduce the pressure in your eyes, especially if you are suffering from open-angle glaucoma. You should talk to your eye specialist for advice on the best exercises.
• Reduce your caffeine intake. Consuming too much caffeine can increase the pressure in your eyes.
• Stay dehydrated. Drink enough water and other useful fluids during the day. However, do not drink large amounts of fluids within a short time because it can temporarily elevate your eye pressure.
• Elevate your head when sleeping. When you are sleeping, place a wedge pillow under your head to raise it about 20 degrees. This helps to reduce intraocular pressure while you are asleep.
Treatment Options for High Eye Pressure
The most common treatment for ocular hypertension is prescribed medicine. This includes eye drops and herbal medicines. Make sure you follow your doctor’s prescription when taking the medicines to avoid further complications. For instance, you should be careful when using eye drops so that you do not damage your optic nerve.
Research has also revealed that medical marijuana helps to reduce eye pressure, albeit for a few hours. So, you should not rely solely on this remedy for your ocular hypertension. You can also treat this problem using relaxation techniques. It is known the world over that stress triggers acute angle-closure glaucoma.
Therefore, you should find ways to minimize stress in order to reduce eye pressure. You can try meditation, exercising, and avoiding stressful situations.
The type of treatment recommended by your doctor depends on the level of your ocular pressure. For example, if your pressure is slightly over 21 mm Hg, your doctor will recommend tropical medicines for you. Your doctor will also recommend medical treatment if you are experiencing halos, pain, blurred vision, or a consistent increase in eye pressure.
The treatment process will take a few weeks or months depending on the severity of the problem, with regular examinations in between office visits. Your doctor will recommend different types of medical treatments depending on the kind of improvement you will show over time.