Ocular Hypertension: Diagnosis and Treatment
The term ocular hypertension usually refers to any situation in which the pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure, is higher than normal. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mm Hg. Ocular hypertension is an eye pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg.
Although its definition has evolved through the years, ocular hypertension is commonly defined as a condition with the following criteria:
An intraocular pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg is measured in one or both eyes at two or more office visits. Pressure inside the eye is measured using an instrument called a tonometer. The optic nerve appears normal.
No signs of glaucoma are evident on visual field testing, which is a test to assess your peripheral (or side) vision.
To determine other possible causes for your high eye pressure, an eye doctor (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery) assesses whether your drainage system (called the "angle") is open or closed. The angle is seen using a technique called gonioscopy. This technique involves the use of a special contact lens to examine the drainage angles (or channels) in your eyes to see if they are open, narrowed, or closed.
Ocular hypertension should not be considered a disease by itself. Instead, ocular hypertension is a term that is used to describe individuals who should be observed more closely than the general population for the onset of glaucoma. For this reason, another term to refer to a person with ocular hypertension is "glaucoma suspect," or someone whom the eye doctor is concerned may have or may develop glaucoma because of elevated pressure inside the eyes. An eye exam may show a glaucoma-damaged optic nerve.
As mentioned above, increased intraocular pressure can result from other eye conditions. However ocular hypertension primarily refers to increased intraocular pressure without any optic nerve damage or vision loss. Glaucoma is diagnosed when characteristic optic nerve and vision changes occur; typically with elevated eye pressure but occasionally with normal pressure.
If the intraocular pressure is 28 mm Hg or higher, you are treated with medicines. After 1 month of taking the drug, you have a follow-up visit with your eye doctor to see if the medicine is lowering the pressure and there are no side effects. If the drug is working, then follow-up visits are scheduled every 3-4 months.
If your intraocular pressure is 26-27 mm Hg, the pressure is rechecked in 2-3 weeks after your initial visit. On your second visit, if the pressure is still within 3 mm Hg of the reading at the initial visit, then follow-up visits are scheduled every 3-4 months. If the pressure is lower on your second visit, then the length of time between follow-up visits is longer and is determined by your eye doctor. At least once a year, visual field testing is done and your optic nerve is examined.
If your intraocular pressure is 22-25 mm Hg, the pressure is rechecked in 2-3 months. At the second visit, if the pressure is still within 3 mm Hg of the reading at the initial visit, then your next visit is in 6 months and includes visual field testing and an optic nerve examination. Testing is repeated at least yearly.
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The Ophthalmologist: Clinical and Therapeutic Journal