Glaucoma and Eye Pressure
Glaucoma and eye pressure are commonly thought to be related. Increased eye pressure does put you at risk for glaucoma, but it doesn't guarantee that you will get the disease. On the other hand, it is also possible (although rare) to develop glaucoma without experiencing any increase in eye pressure.
Does Increased Eye Pressure Mean Glaucoma?
Increased eye pressure does not necessarily indicate that a person has glaucoma.
Increased eye pressure means you are at risk for glaucoma (see Causes of Glaucoma), but does not mean you have the disease. A person has glaucoma only if the optic nerve is damaged. If you have increased eye pressure but no damage to the optic nerve, you do not have glaucoma. However, you are at risk.
It is estimated that between three and six million people in the United States have elevated eye pressure, representing between four and seven percent of the population above age 40.
Does Increased Eye Pressure Lead to Glaucoma?
Not every person with increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma. Some people can tolerate higher eye pressure better than others. Also, although a certain level of eye pressure may be high for one person, it may be normal for another.
Whether you develop glaucoma depends on the level of pressure your optic nerve can tolerate without being damaged. This level is different for each person. That's why a comprehensive dilated eye exam is very important. It can help your eye care professional determine what level of eye pressure is normal for you.
Glaucoma and Normal Eye Pressure
Finally, people might wonder if they can develop glaucoma without an increase in eye pressure. The answer is yes. Glaucoma can develop without increased eye pressure. This form of glaucoma is called low tension or normal tension glaucoma. It is not as common as open angle glaucoma.