Eye-Related Chronic Conditions
What is Ocular Hypertension?
Ocular hypertension happens when the pressure inside your eyes becomes higher than it should be. Having ocular hypertension does not hurt, but it increases your risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is serious: you can lose your peripheral vision (from the sides of your eyes), your vision may become blurred, you may lose your central vision or you may even go blind if it isn’t identified and treated early on.
Glaucoma can occur if ocular hypertension damages the main nerve in your eye. This nerve is called the optic nerve and it enables your brain to understand what you see. Your optic nerve is almost unbelievably thin – just one 20,000th of an inch wide – and if it is damaged, this damage can never be reversed.
The space between your cornea (the clear layer on the front of your eye) and the lens of your eye is filled with a clear fluid that provides your eye with nutrients and removes waste products. When there is too much of this fluid, the pressure inside your eye builds up, causing ocular hypertension.
Your age, ethnic origin and family history all play a role in how likely you are to develop ocular hypertension.
This condition is more common among older people, and regular eye tests are advised from about the age of 40. If you have Afro-Caribbean heritage, you should have regular eye tests from about the age of 30 because you may develop ocular hypertension at an earlier age. If glaucoma runs in your family, you may also be more likely to develop glaucoma.
Ocular hypertension has no symptoms, so you won’t be able to tell if you have it. However, it is tested for during routine eye examinations. This is why it is important that you have your eyes tested regularly, even if you think they are fine.
As part of a regular eye test, an eye care specialist will measure the pressure inside your eyes with a machine called a tonometer. This blows a puff of air onto the front of your eye, but it does not hurt.
If you develop ocular hypertension, you will not necessarily go on to develop glaucoma, especially if you are diagnosed and treated early. The only way to know if you have ocular hypertension is to have an eye test, so make sure you have these regularly.
These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye conditions. If you have any of the symptoms, please check with your eye care practitioner.