Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness globally, which is why your eye doctor will always check for it during your annual exam. In the early stages of glaucoma, vision loss is not a symptom, so it’s very important to keep up with those routine eye appointments so that you can catch this “sneak thief of vision” before it causes irreparable damage. If you’ve discussed glaucoma with your doctor, you probably know that the top risk factor for this condition is elevated eye pressure. But does high eye pressure necessarily mean that you have glaucoma? The short answer is no. Now, let’s discuss eye pressure a little more in depth and talk about how it relates to glaucoma.
Normal eye pressure falls between 10-21 mmHg, and eye doctors measure this pressure in a few different ways. Your doctor might use an electronic tonometer, which is pressed briefly against your numbed eye, or might put drops in your eyes to numb them, add a few drops of blue dye, then look at them through a slit-lamp microscope while gently pressing the tip of a small probe against the cornea to measure the pressure. The most common test, however, is called the “air puff” test, or non-contact tonometry. The patient looks at a light and a puff of air flattens the cornea. The eye doctor can tell by the force of air needed to flatten the cornea whether or not the pressure inside the eye is within the normal range.
What is eye pressure? The eye contains a clear fluid known as aqueous humor, and this fluid carries nutrients to the cornea and lens, then carries away waste products. Your eyes have a round shape because of the pressure produced by this fluid, and when the eyes are functioning as they should, the old aqueous humor is continually drained and replaced with new fluid. Sometimes, however, the drainage channels in the eye can become blocked, which is what causes eye pressure to increase. Elevated eye pressure is also known as ocular hypertension, and if it’s too high, it can cause optic nerve damage.
Glaucoma is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, and it occurs because of fluid building up in the eye, raising the intraocular pressure (IOP). The higher the eye pressure becomes the higher the risk of optic nerve damage and vision loss.
However, ocular hypertension is common for people who have high blood pressure. While it’s a risk factor for glaucoma, it does not necessarily mean that the person absolutely will get glaucoma. The amount of pressure the optic nerve can handle is different for different people, and some people naturally have higher eye pressure. When you have regular eye exams, your doctor will be able to establish the level of pressure that’s normal for you, which is important in knowing when to be concerned about glaucoma. When you need an eye exam, trust Boulder Eye Surgeons to care for your eyes. Having served Boulder, Colorado and the surrounding area since 1997, Boulder Eye Surgeons utilizes state-of-the-art technology to provide comprehensive medical and surgical eye care. We’re committed to enhancing quality of life through exceptional patient care, and our doctors and staff members are second to none. Request an appointment with our community-oriented practice to learn how we work to understand your needs and exceed your expectations, call us at (303) 943-1483, or contact us through our website.