Ocular hypertension: when to treat

Ocular hypertension is a pressure that is considered to be above normal, (greater than 21), but is not producing, for the moment, any damage to the optic nerve. According to specialists in Ophthalmology, a nerve is healthy when its shape, structure and function are normal. The shape can be appreciated by exploring the back of the eye. On the other hand, the structure, i.e. the nerve fibers, is assessed by performing an OCT (optical coherence tomography). Finally, function is assessed by performing computerized campimetry.

What is the cause of ocular hypertension?

The cause of ocular hypertension is currently unknown. It is thought to be related to a genetic alteration that causes some difficulty in the outflow of intraocular fluid (aqueous humor). If this aqueous humor that is continually forming in the eye has a problem getting out, the pressure increases.

Sometimes the cause is related to having a thicker cornea than normal. This causes the measured pressure to be higher than the real pressure, because it is more difficult to depress the cornea. On the other hand, corticosteroid drops or pills can also cause an increase in eye pressure.

Ocular hypertension: symptoms

As this pathology does not affect the optic nerve, it does not present any symptoms. To produce any symptoms, such as colored halos, headache or decreased vision, the pressure would have to rise sharply. These symptoms may appear when ocular hypertension is associated with other eye disorders.

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Treatment for ocular hypertension

Ocular hypertension usually does not require treatment. There is scientific evidence that it is advisable to treat those cases in which the intraocular pressure is higher than 24. However, it is best to tailor the need for treatment to the individual patient. If the affected person has a family history of glaucoma or a thin cornea, it tends to be treated earlier. If any of the tests performed to evaluate the optic nerve are altered, the patient should be treated with a daily application of hypotensive eye drops.

These hypotensive eye drops may have side effects. This is why ocular hypertension is not treated in all cases.

Ocular hypertension and glaucoma?

Some specialists prefer to call hypertension “glaucoma suspicion”, since high ocular pressure is the major risk factor for developing glaucoma. If the shape, structure or function of the optic nerve is altered, it is a case of glaucoma rather than ocular hypertension.

Patients with ocular hypertension should have regular examinations to rule out the development of glaucoma over time.

The number of people affected by ocular hypertension is 10 times that of people with glaucoma.