Eye pressure pain can be an indication that something is wrong. Average eye pressure should be neither high nor low. If you feel pressure in one eye or both eyes, then you should have it checked out immediately.
Eye pressure symptoms can vary depending on the cause. Causes of pressure behind eyes can be due to glaucoma or another eye condition. In some cases, you may experience no symptoms at all. Most people with high eye blood pressure complain of a feeling of pressure in eyes, either one or both.
Checking eye pressure regularly is a good way to prevent the onset of glaucoma. In this article, we’ll discuss what causes high eye pressure and how to reduce it. We will also list 15 warning signs of possible glaucoma eye pressure and help you figure out what your eye pressure range should be.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Intraocular Eye Pressure?
- What Does Normal Pressure In Your Eyes Feel Like?
- Normal Eye Pressure Range By Age
- Symptoms of Increased Eye Pressure
- Low Eye Pressure Symptoms
- High Eye Pressure and Headaches
- What Causes Pressure Behind The Eyes?
- What Is The Connection Between Eye Pressure and Glaucoma?
- How To Detect High Eye Pressure Symptoms
- Methods of Eye Pressure Measurement
- 15 Warning Eye Pressure Symptoms
- How To Relieve Eye Pressure
- High Eye Pressure Treatment Options
- Involves treatment options based on what causes pressure in your eyes
- Eye drops for high pressure
- Laser surgery
- Key Takeaways
What Is Intraocular Eye Pressure?
If you’ve ever told your doctor, “I have pressure in my eyes,” then you may be at risk for developing high eye pressure, which is otherwise known as intraocular eye pressure. Elevated eye pressure is a cause for concern because it is a risk factor for glaucoma. Studies show that lowering your intraocular eye pressure can help preserve your vision. For this reason, your eye doctor may want to do an eye test right away to determine your eye pressure causes.
Intraocular eye pressure refers to the sensation of pressure behind eyeballs. It may occur as a pressure behind left eye or a pressure behind right eye. Although the criteria for high eye pressure have changed over the years, here are some factors that remain consistent with signs of high eye pressure:
- A pressure that measures 21 mm Hg or more in one or both eyes during one of your doctor visits
- Your side vision appears to be normal
- There are no signs of glaucoma yet
- Your drainage system or angle is open, narrow, or closed
- There are no other signs of ocular disease present
Intraocular eye pressure is not considered a disease itself. If you have a pressure behind eye, your doctor may watch you more closely to determine whether or not you’ll get glaucoma. He or she may do an eye exam to determine if you have a damaged optic nerve, which is often an indication of glaucoma.
Image source: https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/hypertension.htm
Research shows that an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States alone were diagnosed with glaucoma and more than 120,000 people are legally blind because of it. Because of this, high blood pressure eyes are treated more seriously than other eye symptoms. Additionally, nearly six million people in the United States who are older than 40 years old have high eye pressure without other signs of glaucoma.
People who have high eye pressure are estimated to have a ten percent increased risk of getting glaucoma within five years. You can decrease this risk if you have high eye pressure by five percent if you are able to lower your eye pressure using laser surgery or medications. Your risk of vision loss increases with glaucoma; therefore, it’s important to seek treatment for high eye pressure right away.
Additionally, the higher the pressure in your eyes, the more likely you are to develop glaucoma. For example, studies show that people with an intraocular pressure measurement of 21 to 25 mm HG are 2.6 to 3 percent more likely to develop glaucoma. While people with an intraocular pressure measurement of 26 to 33 mm HG are 12 to 26 percent more likely to develop glaucoma and people with a measurement of 26 to 30 are 42 percent more likely to get the disease.
In approximately three percent of all people with high eye pressure, the retina veins may become blocked and this may lead to vision loss. Your doctor may suggest that you keep your eye pressure below 25 mm Hg if you are over the age of 65 to prevent any vision loss.
Research shows that there are several risk factors associated with intraocular eye pressure. For example, one study found that African Americans were five times more likely to develop glaucoma. The authors of the study found that African Americans tend to have thinner corneas, which may increase intraocular pressure and the risk of glaucoma. African Americans are also more likely to have optic nerve damage and develop open-angle glaucoma.
Some studies show that women are more likely than men to have high eye pressure, especially after they go through menopause. Men who have intraocular eye pressure are also more likely to develop ocular damage from glaucoma. Your risk of developing high eye pressure increases slowly with age. The same goes for glaucoma. People over the age of 40 are considered at risk for developing both high eye pressure and open-angle glaucoma. Developing the condition sooner than the age of 40 could mean that you have a greater risk of optic nerve damage.
What Does Normal Pressure In Your Eyes Feel Like?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye pressure is measured by the amount of fluid in your eye. It’s similar to measuring your blood pressure. Your eye contains a substance called vitreous humor, which looks and feels like jelly and is located in the back of your eye. Aqueous humor is a watery liquid that is also located in your eye, but it’s mostly in the front part of the eye in front of the iris and behind the cornea.
In a normal or healthy eye, there is a small amount of aqueous humor that always enters while an equal amount drains. Most of this liquid flows out of the eye through an area in front of the iris known as the drainage angle. This continuous flow ensure that you have a steady pressure in your eyes. So, what causes eye pressure to go up? An imbalance in this procedure can make you feel like you have too much or too little eye pressure in your eyes.
Normal eye pressure should feel comfortable. In other words, it should feel like nothing is wrong with your eyes. This indicates that the drainage angle is working properly and there are no issues. You can measure your eye pressure in millimeters of mercury or mm, similar to how a thermometer measures temperature. Normal eye pressure measures between 10 and 20 mm. Some people have high or low eye pressure with no other symptoms. Others experience vision loss or optic nerve damage.
Normal Eye Pressure Range By Age
What is good eye pressure? Normal eye pressure is defined as having an intraocular eye pressure measurement of 10 to 21 mm Hg. Your risk of glaucoma and intraocular eye pressure increases as you get older. Experiencing high eye pressure before turning 40 could be a sign of a more serious condition.
According to one study that tested a group of 3135 patients with an average age of 64.1 years old, the average eye pressure measurement was 14.7 mm HG. The results found that most people aged 40 to 54 years old had an eye pressure measurement of 20 to 21 mm Hg while people over the age of 80 had a reading of 18 to 19 mm Hg. The results also showed that a high eye pressure reading was associated with younger age, high blood sugar levels, a higher pulse rate, high diastolic blood pressure, and a higher consumption of alcohol.
The eye pressure measurement decreased by 0.50 and 0.76 mm Hg for every increase in age by ten years. In the group of 50 to 55 year olds, the age-adjusted eye measurements ranged from 9 to 18 mm HG while the group of 75 year olds and above ranged from 8 to 18 mm HG.
Another study found that there is an association between eye pressure measurement, systolic blood pressure, and central corneal thickness. The study took 3280 patients living in Singapore between the ages of 40 and 80. After being put through several tests, the results showed that intraocular eye pressure increased with age up until the age of 60. At that point, there was a decrease in eye pressure measurement following by an increase with age, which made a “U” shape pattern on the results chart.
Graph source: https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/hypertension.htm
The researchers also noted that systolic blood pressure increased with age whereas the thickness of the cornea decreased with age. Among the age group of people age 40 to 59 years old, both blood pressure and corneal thickness were positively associated with eye pressure measurement. However, in people aged 60 to 80 years old, there was only an association between blood pressure and eye pressure. Researchers concluded that age, blood pressure, and thickness of cornea were significant factors in determine eye pressure in people aged 40 to 80 with thickness of cornea being more important in younger people.
As you can see, your eye pressure range may vary depending on age as well as several other factors, such as your diet and lifestyle habits, how much alcohol you take in, how much sugar you eat, and how well you control your blood pressure. The thickness of your cornea may also determine your eye pressure measurement. It’s a good idea to have your eye pressure checked regularly starting at a young age so you have a better understanding about where your numbers should be.
Symptoms of Increased Eye Pressure
The symptoms of increased eye pressure can be hard to detect.Some people may notice a slight increase in pressure over time while others feel an intense pain more immediately. Aside from feeling increased pressure in your eyes, you may also notice drainage or even partial vision loss. Pressure usually occurs behind the eyes, but you may also feel it between your eyes.
Eye pressure is often a symptom of glaucoma; however, the two conditions are not the same. Their symptoms can also be similar. For most people with high eye pressure, there is no vision loss present. Because having high eye pressure puts you at an increased risk of glaucoma, you might experience several symptoms together. Most of the time, there are few, if any, symptoms of intraocular eye pressure that is not related to glaucoma.
Here are some possible symptoms to be aware of that may accompany high eye pressure:
- Blurred vision
- Eye or head pain
- A slight loss of vision
- Vomiting or nausea
- Seeing spots, dots, or circles
Low Eye Pressure Symptoms
Do you wonder, “What if there is low pressure behind my eyes?” Low eye pressure might not be as serious as high eye pressure, but it can still indicate a problem. As we mentioned above, the normal eye pressure range is from 10 to 21 mm HG. Anything lower than this means that you may have low eye pressure. Normal eye pressure is needed to support the overall health of your eye.
Low eye pressure is less common than high eye pressure. Most people get low eye pressure if there is a leak in their eye during or after a surgical procedure. Research shows that some people with low eye pressure can see just fine while others might experience blurry vision.
Image source: https://www.brightfocus.org/glaucoma/article/how-eye-pressure-measured
When you have an eye pressure measurement of 5 mm Hg or less, it’s referred to as ocular hypotony. It occurs when aqueous humor leaves your eye faster than your eye can refill it. This can produce the following symptoms:
- Swelling in the clear outer layer of your eye, otherwise known as the cornea
- Eye damage to your macula, which is the part of your eye that senses light
- Discomfort or eye pain
Ocular hypotony may occur as a result of blunt trauma to your eye. This may even occur years after the injury. It may also occur if you have abnormally thin tissue. Other causes of hypotony are chronic inflammation in the eye or retinal detachment. Depending on the cause, ocular hypotony can be treated surgically or with medication. It’s important to note that low eye pressure is rare even in surgical procedures.
High Eye Pressure and Headaches
High eye pressure can be the reason why you are experiencing headaches. Many people find that they get a headache when they experience eye pain or vision problems. In some instances, a headache can result in pressure behind the eyes, so it’s important to see a doctor to determine which symptom is the culprit.
If your headache and eye pressure is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a runny nose, fever, or upper respiratory infection, then the headache and eye pressure will likely go away once your cold does. You may also experience sinus pressure in addition to a headache if you have high eye pressure.
There are two types of headaches that can cause pressure behind your eyes. The first is a tension headache and the second is a cluster headache. A tension headache affects nearly 80 percent of people and is the most common type of headache. These usually go away on their own or with the use of pain medication. A cluster headache is more painful and may come and go more frequently than a tension headache.
Along with eye pressure, symptoms of a headache may include:
- Vision loss or problems
- Feeling lightheaded
- Seeing spots or halos around bright lights
- Blurry vision
- Pain or a tightness in your neck and shoulders
- A droopy eyelid
- Swelling in your face
- Redness in your face
- Red, watery eyes
- Soreness in your back muscles
- Lack of sleep
- Overconsumption of caffeine or alcohol
It’s important to see a doctor to rule out the reasons for your headaches and eye pressure. If your eye pressure clears up as soon as your headache does, then it is probably not serious. An eye exam can be done to determine whether your headache is a cause for concern or not.
What Causes Pressure Behind The Eyes?
Many people want to know what causes eye pressure. Aside from having a headache or a sinus infection, your eye pressure may be caused by a number of factors. Here are some of the most common:
- An injury to your eye or face, even years after it happens
- Optic nerve damage
- A sinus infection or upper respiratory infection
- Graves disease
- A blocked tear duct
- Problems with your contact lens
- Inflammation of the eye
- Pink eye
- A cyst on your eye
- Straining your eyes to read or see
- Poor lighting
- Driving in the dark
- Not wearing your glasses as prescribed
- The overuse of eye drops
- Certain medications
- Dry eye syndrome
- Vision problems
- Being nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatism
- A scratch on your eye
It’s important to rule out glaucoma if you experience regular eye pressure. See an eye doctor right away to have your eyes checked to determine the cause.
What Is The Connection Between Eye Pressure and Glaucoma?
Having high eye pressure makes you a “glaucoma suspect,” according to some doctors. This is because high eye pressure is often a symptoms of glaucoma. Although it isn’t a guarantee that you’ll develop glaucoma if you have high eye pressure, it puts you at an increased risk.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, there is no specific eye pressure measurement that leads to glaucoma. Increased pressure inside the eye is usually always present among people with glaucoma. However, even patients without eye pressure can develop glaucoma. On the other hand, having a low eye pressure measurement does not guarantee that you won’t develop the condition either.
Image source: https://www.erimeye.com/heart-rate-predicts-womens-heart-risk/
If you have high eye pressure, your doctor will want to check you closely to make sure you don’t develop glaucoma. This means he or she may ask you to come in more frequently for eye exams. Having high eye pressure and a family history of glaucoma makes you a candidate for developing the condition yourself. If detected early, glaucoma can be treated with surgery or medication to help preserve your eyesight.
If you have high eye pressure and you aren’t getting checked regularly for glaucoma, it could result in irreversible vision loss. The changes in your eyes might be so gradual that you don’t notice them until your vision is completely lost. This is why it’s important to get regular eye exams by your doctor.
How To Detect High Eye Pressure Symptoms
Most people start to feel high eye pressure over time. In some cases, high eye pressure comes on without much warning. Other times, you may not notice that you have high eye pressure at all because some people do not experience symptoms.
It might help to keep a journal of your eye pressure symptoms daily or even weekly. Start by writing down any changes you notice with your eyes. Assign a number to the amount of pressure you feel in either eye. This is especially helpful if you think you may have high eye pressure and need to monitor your symptoms.
Also, be sure to write down any other symptoms you notice in addition to pressure. These can be an indication of another condition or they may help your doctor rule out glaucoma. Take your journal or notes with you when you see your eye doctor so he or she can assess your symptoms.
Methods of Eye Pressure Measurement
Depending on what causes high eye pressure, your treatment may vary. The best way to detect high eye pressure is by seeing your eye doctor for an eye exam. Checking eye pressure involves conducting a tonometry, which is a type of test that measures your eye pressure. In the past, eye doctors used a puff of air to detect your eye pressure. Now, most eye doctors use a more accurate device to measure your eye pressure.
First, your doctor will place eye drops in your eyes to numb them. Next, he or she will use a glowing device with a blue light to gently touch the front of your eyeball. Your doctor may also use a handheld device to touch your eye. Both devices apply a light touch of pressure to your eye. This allows your doctor to measure the amount of pressure inside your eye.
You can also conduct an eye pressure test at home by using an at-home tonometer. These handheld devices are designed to test your eye pressure at home the same way your doctor would during an eye exam. Be sure to talk to your doctor to see if an at-home tonometer is right for you. Keep in mind that for the most accurate results, you should only conduct a tonomy at your doctor’s office or under your doctor’s supervision. This prevents the risk of injuring your eye and ensures that your reading will be accurate.
Your doctor may also conduct a pachymetry to determine the thickness of your cornea. A pachymetry is a painless procedure that involves placing a probe on the front of the eye to measure how thick it is. As we mentioned before, the thickness of your corneal may determine how likely you are to develop glaucoma or high eye pressure. If you have a thin cornea, then your doctor may recommend that you check your eye pressure more frequently.
15 Warning Eye Pressure Symptoms
Detecting high eye pressure can be tricky because sometimes there are no symptoms. Most of the time, high eye pressure can only be detected by your doctor after conducting an eye exam. However, there are warning signs that you can check for at home to alert you of any problems.
- 1 - Pressure between eyes
Although most people complain of pressure behind their eyes, you can also experience pressure between your eyes. It may develop in the form of pressure to the side of one or both eyes. This is common among people who get headaches. Always be sure to tell your doctor exactly where your eye pressure is located so he or she can perform an accurate exam to determine the cause.
- 2 - Increased eye pressure that wasn’t there before or appears to be unprovoked
Any sudden pressure in your eyes that wasn’t there before or seems to be unproked should be looked at immediately. As eye pressure increases, your risk of serious complications also increases. This is why it’s best to seek treatment as soon as the problem arises. If eye pressure lasts for more than 24 hours, contact your doctor.
- 3 - Pressure under eye or pressure above eye
Pressure anywhere near your eye, including above or below it, is cause for concern and should be checked out by a doctor. In some cases, eye pressure that doesn’t involve the inside of your eye might be due to an injury and will clear up on its own. However, it’s best to seek treatment to rule out inflammation or an eye disease.
- 4 - Trouble reading
If you suddenly notice that you’re having trouble reading, this could be a sign of high eye pressure. Any changes in your vision should be looked at immediately to prevent further damage.
- 5 - Pressure in right eye or pressure in left eye
Eye pressure can occur in one eye and not the other. It also doesn’t mean that you are more likely to develop eye pressure in your other eye if you already experience it in one eye. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if you only experience eye pressure in one eye only.
- 6 - Headaches or eye pain
Eye pressure can present itself in the form of a headache or eye pain. As we mentioned above, most people experience eye pressure when they develop a tension headache. If your eye pressure or pain disappears with your headache, then you may not have high eye pressure. However, if your eye pressure does not go away or persists with other symptoms, then have it checked out immediately to rule out an infection or a more serious complication.
- 7 - Conducting an eye pressure test frequently at home to check your measurements
If you find yourself frequently checking your eye pressure at home, then this could be a warning sign that you may develop high eye pressure in the future. Keep in mind that checking your eye pressure frequently is a good preventative measure to take, so don’t stop. Alert your doctor of any changes in your eye pressure measurements.
- 8 - Overusing eye drops for eye pressure to help improve eye drainage
Overusing eye drops, whether they are prescription or over-the-counter, might be a sign that you are experiencing high eye pressure. If the eye drops that your doctor prescribed to you stop working or do not alleviate your eye pressure, then it might be time to talk about other treatment options. Do not use more eye drops than directed by your doctor or on the label of the product you are taking.
- 9 - Being unable to relieve pressure behind eyes despite adequate rest and numerous attempts
Sometimes resting your eyes can help relieve eye pressure if there are no serious underlying conditions. If you have tried relaxation techniques or other methods to help relieve eye pressure without success, then it could be a warning sign that something is wrong.
- 10 - Having an eye pressure measurement of 21 mm Hg or higher in one or both eyes
High eye pressure is defined as having a measurement of 21 mm Hg or higher. Even if you only have a one-time measurement that is high, it’s best to talk to your doctor about treatment to prevent further complications.
- 11 - Having a damaged optic nerve
Having a damaged optic nerve or another eye injury could put you at an increased risk for developing high eye pressure. Any injury to your drainage system could also increase the odds that you’ll develop high eye pressure. If your doctor notices eye damage during an exam, he or she may want to monitor you closer for eye pressure.
- 12 - Being diagnosed with glaucoma
If you’re already been diagnosed with glaucoma, then you may already experience high eye pressure. However, not all patients with glaucoma will have high eye pressure and vice versa.
- 13 - Having a thinner cornea
As we mentioned above, having a thin cornea puts you at an increased risk of developing high eye pressure.
- 14 - Eye drainage or an increased amount of fluid in the eye
Excessive draining in the eye could be an indication of either high or low eye pressure.
- 15 - Problems with your peripheral vision
Any change in vision should be checked out immediately. If you think you may have high eye pressure, inform your doctor right away as this increases your risk of glaucoma. Other common symptoms of eye problems may include seeing floaters or spots, trouble reading words that are right in front of your, being unable to drive at night, or double vision. All of these symptoms warrant a trip to your eye doctor before vision loss occurs and becomes irreversible.
How To Relieve Eye Pressure
Eye pressure treatment can vary depending on the reason for the condition. Your doctor may have some suggestions for how to reduce eye pressure based on your symptoms or the severity of the condition.
High Eye Pressure Treatment OptionsIf your doctor determines that you have high eye pressure, he or she will likely choose to monitor your eye pressure to watch for glaucoma. In some cases, mediation will be administered. However, many medications contain side effects. Because of this, your doctor may use medication as a last resort only. Here are some possible ways to treat high eye pressure.
1. Eye drops for high pressure
Most patients who are newly diagnosed with glaucoma will be given eye drops. You can also be given eye drops if you have high eye pressure. They work to decrease eye pressure by improving your drainage angle, which is the process by which fluid drains from your eye. This results in a reduced feeling of pressure. If your condition is severe, then your doctor may prescribe more than one type of eye drop. Keep in mind that your eyes may water or you may experience drainage as a result of the drops.
Here are some common prescription eye drops used to treat high eye pressure:
- Beta blockers: these work by decreasing the amount of fluid that is produced in your eyes, which lowers the pressure. Common examples include timolol and betaxolol.
- Prostaglandins: these medications work by increasing the amount of fluid that leaves your eye to provide relief from pressure. These are usually prescribed for once a day use. Examples include latanoprost, travoprost, tafluprost, latanoprostene bunod and bimatoprost .
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: these medications also work by reducing the production of fluid in your eye. Most of the time, this type of medication is prescribed for use twice a day but your doctor may also suggest you use it three times a day. Examples include dorzolamide and brinzolamide.
- Alpha-adrenergic agonists: these drops work in two ways to reduce eye pressure by increasing the outflow of fluid in your eyes as well as decreasing the amount of fluid production. Examples include apraclonidine and brimonidine.
- Miotic or cholinergic agents: these drops increase the removal of fluid from your eye. Pilocarpine is a common example.
- Rho kinase inhibitor: these drops work by decreasing the rho kinase enzymes in the eye that are responsible for increasing fluid. This medicine is used once a day and is prescribed as netarsudil.
Possible side effects of eye drops may include:
- A metallic taste in your mouth
- Frequent urination
- Numbness or a loss of sensation in your fingers and toes
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Swollen or itchy eyes
- Dry eyes or mouth
- Red eyes
- Eye ache or pain
- Blurry or dimmed vision
- Small pupils
- Deposits that form on the cornea
- Darkening of the eye or eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
- A slower heartbeat
2. Laser surgery
Laser surgery is used to treat eye pressure by improving the amount of drainage in your eye. If you have open-angle glaucoma or high eye pressure, then your doctor may prescribe a laser trabeculoplasty. This type of surgery is conducted in your doctor’s office and requires the use of a small bean to open any channels in your eye that are clogged and don’t drain as well. In some cases, it takes several weeks before the surgery works and your eyes begin to drain as they should.
Filtering surgery is another type of surgery that can be done. It involves using a trabeculectomy to create an opening in your eye and removing part of the meshwork inside. Your doctor may also put drainage tubes in your eyes to help them drain better.
Finally, a minimally invasive glaucoma surgery or MIGS procedure can be done to reduce eye pressure. It’s usually a less risky procedure than using a trabeculectomy or putting tubes in your eyes, and the post-surgery care is often easier. Most eye doctors perform this type of surgery when doing cataract surgery. Several techniques are available, and it will be up to your doctor to decide which is best for you.
3. Oral medications
If eye drops don’t work to bring down your eye pressure, then your doctor may prescribe an oral medication in the form of a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. Side effects may include depression, kidney stones, an upset stomach, and tingling in the toes and fingers.
The symptoms of high eye pressure can be hard to detect. In some instances, there are no symptoms at all other than a slight pressure behind the eyes. Having high eye pressure makes you a “glaucoma suspect” because it puts you at an increased risk of developing the disease. Because of this, it’s important to notify your doctor if you feel any pressure in your eyes. He or she will likely do an in-office exam to check your pressure.
A measurement of 21 mm Hg or higher indicates that you have high eye pressure. Most treatment options include oral medication, surgery, or eye drops. Your doctor can help you decide which treatment option is best for you based on the cause of your condition.