Understanding Ocular Hypertension: Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Diagnosis

Ocular hypertension is a condition in which the pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) is higher than normal. It is typically defined as having intraocular pressure above 21 mmHg without any signs of glaucoma damage to the optic nerve. This condition is different from glaucoma, which is characterized by increased intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage that can lead to vision loss.

In many cases, people with ocular hypertension may not experience any symptoms. Therefore, regular eye exams are important to detect and monitor the condition. Ocular hypertension is a significant risk factor for developing glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, as high intraocular pressure can damage the optic nerve over time.

5 Causes & Risk Factors of Ocular Hypertension

There are five primary reasons that ocular hypertension can occur:

  1. Fluid accumulation in the eye. An increased amount of aqueous humor (eye fluid) can raise intraocular pressure.
  2. Inadequate aqueous drainage. Due to structural differences in the eye, drainage channels may not correctly release fluid build-up. An example of this may be pigmentary glaucoma, a type of glaucoma. This is when the pigment in the eye clogs the drainage angle.
  3. Certain medications. Corticosteroids and other drugs like tricyclic antidepressants may increase eye pressure.
  4. Eye trauma. Damage to the eye caused by an accident or infection.
  5. Specific risk factors. Race, age, and family history may influence whether a person develops ocular hypertension. People with extreme nearsightedness (myopia) or diabetes are at risk of this condition.

Ocular hypertension occurs more often in African Americans, people aged 40 and up, and those with a family history of ocular hypertension and/or glaucoma.

How is Ocular Hypertension Diagnosed?

At first, ocular hypertension will not show any noticeable signs or symptoms. A comprehensive eye examination can help ophthalmologists perform a proper diagnosis and rule out any possible structural damage to the eye.

In these types of examinations, an ophthalmologist may assess the following:

  • Visual acuity and visual fields
  • Optic nerve damage (using keratometry readings)
  • Signs of pigment dispersion, pseudoexfoliation, iritis, or trauma (using a slit lamp)

Ophthalmologists sometimes perform gonioscopy (to check the eye’s drainage angle) and assess for angle closure. Finally, they may also evaluate central corneal thickness.

Treatment Options for Ocular Hypertension

For people with ocular hypertension, medical treatment is the most common approach. An eye doctor may also prescribe topical prostaglandin analogs or β-adrenergic antagonists.

In other cases, an eye doctor may also consider argon laser trabeculoplasty or selective laser trabeculoplasty.

Both types of laser trabeculoplasty aim to ease and increase fluid outflow through the trabecular meshwork. This is to decrease eye pressure. Selective laser trabeculoplasty is more commonly used because it is less destructive to the tissue.

An eye doctor may consider many different factors when determining the most suitable treatment. These factors include:

  • Risk of progression to glaucoma
  • Person’s attitude about treatment
  • Person’s age, health, and life expectancy

To minimize the likelihood of glaucoma progression or slow the disease’s onset, maintain follow-up visits. The frequency of these visits may vary according to intraocular pressure reduction. 

Home Remedies for Ocular Hypertension

Some remedies you can implement to help reduce your risk for glaucoma include:

  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in minerals like zinc and selenium and vitamins like A, E, and C
  • Raise your head to an approximately 20-degree angle while sleeping
  • Drink small amounts of liquid (less than a quart) throughout the day
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Learn and practice relaxation and mindfulness techniques

What is the Prognosis for Ocular Hypertension?

The prognosis for ocular hypertension is favorable.

To lower your chances of either progression to glaucoma or severe complications, maintain follow-up visits and adhere to prescribed medical treatments. This decreases the risk of eye health complications, such as a progression to glaucoma.

Although you can’t always prevent glaucoma, regular follow-up visits can detect early damage to the optic nerve and control further progression.

Glaucoma vs. Ocular Hypertension

If you have ocular hypertension, you are at risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to blindness.

Eye pressure increases when the front of the eye does not allow for proper fluid drainage. Elevated pressure can result in glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, and vision loss occurs. In many cases of glaucoma, this damage may result from high eye pressure.

However, ocular hypertension is not the same as glaucoma. Although you may have raised pressure, standard tests may not find any signs of structural or functional damage. This is how ocular hypertension is distinguished from glaucoma, as glaucoma shows optic nerve damage.

Nevertheless, people with ocular hypertension face a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Ocular hypertension is a leading risk factor for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).

Can You Prevent Ocular Hypertension?

You cannot prevent ocular hypertension. However, treatments are available to help reduce eye pressure.

You must attend frequent eye doctor visits and undergo clinical eye examinations to monitor any glaucoma progression. An eye doctor will adjust treatment accordingly to slow the disease’s progression in its early stages.


Ocular hypertension is when you have raised pressure inside your eye. This condition can’t be cured, but you can minimize its progression.

Remember to visit your eye doctor regularly to monitor your eye’s condition. Your eye doctor will provide treatments and other remedies to keep your eyes healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some questions to ask your eye doctor about ocular hypertension:

How serious is ocular hypertension?

In some cases, ocular hypertension can become serious if left untreated. Maintain visits and follow treatment regimens to prevent progression to glaucoma or damage to the eye.

Can ocular hypertension be cured?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), there is no cure for ocular hypertension. You can decrease the chances of eye damage by following prescribed treatments and regularly visiting your eye clinic. Monitoring your condition can help lower your risk of progression to glaucoma.

Does high blood pressure cause ocular hypertension?

People with high blood pressure or diabetes are at risk of developing ocular hypertension.

Does sleep position affect eye pressure?

Yes. Your sleep position can affect eye pressure. You should raise your head at a 20-degree angle to lower intraocular pressure.

How can I lower my eye pressure fast?

Do not drink more than a quart or more of any liquid within a short time. This could cause your eye pressure to go up. Also, if you experience high stress levels, consider integrating relaxation and meditation exercises. You may also need to eliminate certain medications, such as antihistamines. Speak with your doctor before removing any daily care medication.

Does caffeine increase eye pressure?

Yes, caffeine can contribute to increased eye pressure. Reduce your caffeine intake if you are drinking large amounts of coffee or energy drinks.

What foods help eye pressure?

It is important to follow a healthy diet. Improved eating habits can contribute to lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. A healthy diet includes meals that provide antioxidants, vitamins A, E, and C, and minerals like zinc, copper, and selenium.

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