What is Ocular Hypertension?
Based on statistics from 2000, it is estimated that about 2.47 million people in the United States are afflicted with ocular hypertension. Of these, about 130,000 are legally blind due to this disease. This underscores the need to properly screen and follow individuals with ocular hypertension.
Symptoms of Ocular Hypertension
There may be no outward signs or symptoms of any ocular disease. Ocular hypertension should be thought of as more than a single disease because of its potential link with glaucoma.
Standards and Tests for Ocular Hypertension
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Ocular Hypertension is usually thought of as any time the pressure within the eye is higher than baseline. This pressure is called intraocular pressure. The measurement of eye pressure is measured by millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). 10-21 mm Hg is the normal eye pressure. Ocular hypertension is indicated when eye pressure is more than 21 mm Hg.
Ocular Hypertension has the following standards:
Greater than 21 mm Hg measured in one or both eyes on at least 2 or more times.
A normal-appearing optic nerve.
Glaucoma is not present based on visual field testing (tests your peripheral or side vision).
An ophthalmologist should be the one to determine if you meet the criteria for ocular hypertension. Your eye doctor may use a tonomer pressure inside the eye. Your ophthalmologist will look for all other possible causes of your high eye pressures, as well. For example, your eye doctor will examine your drainage system (known as the "angle") to see if it is closed or open. A gonioscopy is the tool used to diagnose this, and uses a special contact lens to decide the drainage angle or channels to determine if they are closed, opened, or narrowed.
Ocular Hypertension and Glaucoma
Persons with ocular hypertension should be monitored closely for the development of glaucoma because they often go hand in hand. When a patient suffers increased intraocular pressure, optic nerve damage, and vision loss, this is usually identified as glaucoma.
The Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study figures point to the fact that those with ocular hypertension are at about a 10 percent risk of developing glaucoma over a 5-year period. This risk may be reduced to 5% (a 50% decrease in risk, overall) if eye pressure is treated by medications or laser surgery. The risk may become even less than 1% per year due to significantly improved tools and techniques for detecting the presence of glaucomatous damage. These tools can allow for much earlier detection and treatment of this blinding disease.
Corneal thickness may also place you at a greater risk for the formation of glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist will use a pachymeter to measure your corneal thickness. There have been other factors that include race, age, and so on, but are not conclusive at this time. Some studies have shown that blacks had a higher incidence than whites of this disease, but these studies are inconclusive.
Is it Necessary to Treat Ocular Hypertension?
Intraocular pressure can result from other eye conditions. The focus of this article has been about ocular hypertension and its potential link to glaucoma. Damage to the optic nerve or loss of vision are other factors that should be considered with ocular hypertension.
It is vital that you take responsibility for your own eye care and schedule at least annual eye exams, your very sight, may depend on it!