Ocular Hypertension Overview continued...
Some studies have found that the average intraocular pressure in African-Americans is higher than in whites, while other studies have found no difference.
- A 4-year study showed that African-Americans with ocular hypertension were 5 times more likely to develop glaucoma than whites. Findings suggest that, on average, African-Americans have thinner corneas, which may account for this increased likelihood to develop glaucoma, as a thinner cornea may cause pressure measurements in the office to be falsely low.
- In addition, African-Americans are considered to have a 3-4 times greater risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma. They are also believed to be more likely to have optic nerve damage.
Although some studies have reported a significantly higher average intraocular pressure in women than in men, other studies have not shown any difference between men and women.
- Some studies suggest that women could be at a higher risk for ocular hypertension, especially after menopause.
- Studies also show that men with ocular hypertension may be at a higher risk for glaucomatous damage.
Intraocular pressure slowly rises with increasing age, just as glaucoma becomes more prevalent as you get older.
- Being older than age 40 is considered to be a risk factor for the development of both ocular hypertension and primary open-angle glaucoma.
- Elevated pressure in a young person is a cause for concern. A young person has a longer time to be exposed to high pressures over a lifetime and a greater likelihood of optic nerve damage.
Ocular Hypertension Causes
Elevated intraocular pressure is a concern in people with ocular hypertension because it is one of the main risk factors for glaucoma.
High pressure inside the eye is caused by an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid in the eye (aqueous humor). The channels that normally drain the fluid from inside the eye do not function properly. More fluid is continually being produced but cannot be drained because of the improperly functioning drainage channels. This results in an increased amount of fluid inside the eye, thus raising the pressure.
Another way to think of high pressure inside the eye is to imagine a water balloon. The more water that is put into the balloon, the higher the pressure inside the balloon. The same situation exists with too much fluid inside the eye—the more fluid, the higher the pressure. Also, just like a water balloon can burst if too much water is put into it, the optic nerve in the eye can be damaged by too high of a pressure. See Images 1-2.
Ocular Hypertension Symptoms
Most people with ocular hypertension do not experience any symptoms. For this reason, regular eye examinations with an ophthalmologist are very important to rule out any damage to the optic nerve from the high pressure.