High Eye Pressure: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Aarohi Batra
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Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
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high eye pressure

Intraocular Pressure (IOP), also called eye pressure, is the pressure exerted by aqueous humor inside the eye.

This pressure is vital for the healthy working of the eyes.

However, a constant elevation in eye pressure can enroot several eye conditions, such as Glaucoma, which can cause vision loss.

Therefore, it is crucial to deeply understand the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of high eye pressure to protect your eyesight.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about elevated eye pressure to reduce the risks of developing a vision-threatening eye condition.

What is high eye pressure

According to NCBI, the normal eye pressure is 10 to 21 mm Hg. 

When the eye pressure exceeds its upper limit, it is considered high pressure.

Our body balances between the amount of aqueous humor (watery fluid in eyes) produced and drained through the drainage angle.

A disturbance in the drainage angle can cause a change in eye pressure.

Eye pressure builds when there is an imbalance between fluid production and its drainage.

This elevated eye pressure can lead to an eye condition called Ocular Hypertension (OH). 

If left untreated, it can cause a widely known threat to eyesight- Glaucoma.

The main difference between Glaucoma and OH is the form of damage they cause.

Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, whereas, in OH, the optic nerve remains normal.

Elevated eye pressure can cause different forms of Glaucoma, such as:

  • Open-angle Glaucoma: When the drainage angle remains wide open, but the fluid does not drain properly and increases eye pressure
  • Closed-angle Glaucoma: This happens due to the bulging of the iris that completely blocks the drainage angle and causes elevation in eye pressure
  • Normal-tension Glaucoma: The exact cause of this type of Glaucoma is less known. However, a fragile or sensitive optic nerve can get damaged even at normal eye pressure

In some cases of Glaucoma, eye pressure can exceed 70 mm Hg, beyond the normal range.

Therefore, it is recommended to get routine eye examinations to keep a medical record of your eye condition and detect the early symptoms of the disease.

High eye pressure symptoms

HeadacheSource: 123ducu_from_Getty_Images
Severe headache (closed-angle Glaucoma symptom)

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, no particular signs and symptoms of elevated eye pressure exist.

People may not notice any significant change in their eyesight until it gets too late.

However, people may start noticing a few symptoms when the eye condition, caused by elevated eye pressure, progresses.

In the case of Glaucoma progression, people can spot some changes.

In the early stages of Open-angle Glaucoma and Normal Tension Glaucoma, the condition is asymptomatic. 

However, people can notice peripheral and central vision loss as the eye condition progresses.

Closed-angle Glaucoma can show the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness in eyes
  • Pain in eyes
  • Halos or rainbow-colored rings

Ocular Hypertension is asymptomatic with no damage to the optic nerve and eyesight.

What causes high eye pressure

There are several reasons that can cause elevated eye pressure. Some of the reasons are:

Fluid buildup in the eyes

As explained earlier, the disturbance in the natural production and drainage of the aqueous humor results in elevated eye pressure.

Suppose this elevated eye pressure remains untreated for a long time.

In that case, it can cause Glaucoma and other eye problems, such as Pseudoexfoliation Syndrome.

Eye trauma (injury)

Man suffering from eye injurySource: Alona_Siniehina_from_Getty_Images
Eye injury

According to NCBI, about half a million people worldwide are blind due to eye injuries.

Also, in populations under 25 years of age, eye trauma is the leading cause of visual blindness.

All types of eye trauma can elevate eye pressure inside the eyes and cause several chronic eye conditions if they are not treated earlier.

Sometimes, minor eye injuries which are not treated for months and can increase eye pressure.

Eye or ocular trauma can be caused by sudden compression of the eye part with a finger, fist, or tennis ball.

Certain medications

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, steroids can be harmful for people with Glaucoma, as they can increase their eye pressure.

Moreover, topical cycloplegics have been shown to elevate eye pressure by 2% in normal populations and up to 23% in people with Glaucoma.

Antibiotics (sulfa drugs) are also shown to induce Glaucoma by elevating eye pressure in people.

Furthermore, some cardiac agents can elevate eye pressure and increase the risks of developing Glaucoma within three weeks of the medications.

If you have Glaucoma, it is advised to consult your doctor before administering medications for other diseases to avoid serious complications.

Diagnosis of high eye pressure

Here are some of the eye tests to check your eye pressure and early detection of an eye condition: 

Goldmann Applanation Tonometry (GAT)

Goldmann Applanation Tonometry (GAT)Source: zoranm_from_Getty_Images_Signature
Goldmann Applanation Tonometry

This painless test is the “gold standard” test for measuring your eye pressure.

Firstly, your doctor will anesthetize (numb) your eyes and apply non-toxic dye to your eyes.

Then the slit will gently touch the front of your eye and records the force required to flatten a fixed area of your cornea. 


This eye pressure benefits people with corneal scars because this method does not use anesthesia.

The device consists of a hollow tube and senses the air pressure.

During the corneal applanation (flattening), the pressure inside the tubes increases to match the pressure generated by the eye. This pressure gets traced to the strip of paper.

Rebound Tonometry

It is one of the widely used methods and does not require anesthesia.

This test measures the velocity of the bouncing back of the plastic probe depending on the eye pressure.

Moreover, people can also use Sensimed triggerfish contact lenses to record their daily eye pressure fluctuations by measuring changes in the shape of the cornea.

High eye pressure treatment

After diagnosing the eye pressure and finding the underlying cause behind its elevation, your doctor can recommend the following treatment measures:

  • Prostaglandins: These eye drops are effective in increasing the outflow of fluid and, thus, decreasing eye pressure
  • Beta-blockers: They reduce fluid production to decrease elevated eye pressure
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: These reduce the amount of fluid production in the eyes
  • Rho kinase inhibitor: These medications are helpful in increasing the outflow of aqueous humor and stabilizing the eye pressure

For severe cases, laser surgery and trabeculoplasty can also help to drain the aqueous humor from the eyes and reduce high pressure in the eyes.

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  • Conclusion

    Eye pressure is the pressure exerted by aqueous humor inside your eyes.

    Disturbing the amount of fluid produced and drained can cause high eye pressure. It can lead to eye problems, including vision-threatening Glaucoma.

    There are no particular symptoms of elevated eye pressure in the initial stages.

    However, the progression of Glaucoma can show some changes, such as blurred vision and pain in the eyes.

    Elevated eye pressure can be caused due to medications, eye injury, and fluid buildup in the eyes.

    Therefore, getting a routine eye test with Goldmann Applanation Tonometry and other methods to detect eye changes is crucial.

    After diagnosis, your doctor can recommend eye drops or surgical treatments to reduce the eye pressure and treat your eye condition. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can high pressure cause headaches?

    Generally, there are no particular signs and symptoms of elevated eye pressure in people, and it often delays the treatment. However, as Glaucoma progresses, people can notice sudden changes, including headaches in the case of Closed-angle Glaucoma. You should consult your doctor and seek medical treatment to prevent its progression.

    How to diagnose high eye pressure?

    Your doctor can check your eye pressure with the help of Goldmann Applanation Tonometry, pneumatonometry, and rebound tonometry. To keep a close check on your eye pressure, you can consult your doctor and opt for Sensimed triggerfish contact lenses.

    What happens when your eye pressure is high?

    If your eye pressure is high for a long time and you do not get treatment, it can damage your optic nerve and cause Glaucoma. An untreated Glaucoma can cause permanent loss of vision. Therefore, you should consult your doctor in case of elevated eye pressure and prevent eye conditions.

    What are the symptoms of high eye pressure?

    There are no signs or symptoms of increased eye pressure in people. You may be unable to detect the changes in your eyes until it’s too late. Therefore, it is recommended to get routine eye check-ups and seek medical treatment to avoid any serious complications.

    What are the treatment options for high eye pressure?

    If your eye pressure is above normal, your doctor may recommend some eye drops. The eye drops include Prostaglandins, beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase, and rho kinase inhibitors. If your eye pressure does not improve, laser therapy can be used to drain out the fluid.

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