The term ocular hypertension usually refers to any situation in which the pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure, is higher than normal. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mm Hg. Ocular hypertension is an eye pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg.
Although its definition has evolved through the years, ocular hypertension is commonly defined as a condition with the following criteria:
Ocular hypertension should not be considered a disease by itself. Instead, ocular hypertension is a term that is used to describe individuals who should be observed more closely than the general population for the onset of glaucoma. For this reason, another term that may be used to refer to an increase in intraocular pressure is glaucoma suspect. A glaucoma suspect is a person whom the ophthalmologist is concerned may have or may develop glaucoma because of the elevated pressure inside the eyes.
Although some studies have reported a significantly higher average intraocular pressure in women than in men, other studies have not shown any difference between men and women.
Intraocular pressure slowly rises with increasing age, just as glaucoma becomes more prevalent as you get older.
Elevated intraocular pressure is a concern in people with ocular hypertension because it is one of the main risk factors for glaucoma. High pressure inside the eye is caused by an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye (aqueous humor). The channels that normally drain the fluid from inside the eye do not function properly. More fluid is continually being produced but cannot be drained because of the improperly functioning drainage channels. This results in an increased amount of fluid inside the eye, thus raising the pressure. Another way to think of high pressure inside the eye is to imagine a water balloon. The more water that is put into the balloon, the higher the pressure inside the balloon. The same situation exists with too much fluid inside the eye—the more fluid, the higher the pressure. Also, just like a water balloon can burst if too much water is put into it, the optic nerve in the eye can be damaged by too high of a pressure.
Most people with ocular hypertension do not experience any symptoms. For this reason, regular eye examinations are very important to rule out any damage to the optic nerve from the high pressure.
If your eye doctor prescribes medicines to help in lowering the pressure inside your eye, properly applying the medication and complying with your doctor’s instructions are very important. Not doing so could result in a further increase in intraocular pressure that can lead to optic nerve damage and permanent vision loss (ie, glaucoma).
Blood pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure). It's measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). High blood pressure (or hypertension) is defined in an adult as a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure or greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure.
High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke, especially when it's present with other risk factors.
Viewing your retina during an eye exam is like looking into a window to the body. Because your retinal vascular system is visible during an eye exam it is possible to see changes in the size and pattern of your retinal arteries.
High blood pressure can occur in children or adults, but it's more common among people over age 35. It's particularly prevalent in African Americans, middle-aged and elderly people, obese people, heavy drinkers and women taking birth control pills. It may run in families, but many people with a strong family history of high blood pressure never have it. People with diabetes mellitus, gout or kidney disease are more likely to have high blood pressure, too.
In about 10% of people, high blood pressure is caused by another disease (this is called secondary hypertension). In such cases, when the root cause is treated, blood pressure usually returns to normal. These causes of secondary hypertension include the following conditions:
In the other 90% of cases, the cause of high blood pressure is not known (referred to as primary hypertension). Although the specific cause is unknown, certain factors are recognized as contributing to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms.
Sometimes people with high blood pressure have the following symptoms:
People often do not seek medical care until they have symptoms arising from the organ damage caused by chronic (ongoing, long-term) high blood pressure. The following types of organ damage are commonly seen in chronic high blood pressure:
About 1% of people with high blood pressure do not seek medical care until the high blood pressure is very severe, a condition known as malignant hypertension.
It is of utmost importance to realize that high blood pressure can be unrecognized for years, causing no symptoms but causing progressive damage to the heart, other organs, and blood vessels. Regular eye exams can help uncover signs of systemic hypertension.
You and your health care provider have options for treating your high blood pressure.
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