Most of us never think about the pressure inside our eyes (intraocular pressure, or IOP) because unless there’s a problem, we’re not even aware of it. But eye pressure is something that needs to be checked on a regular basis, especially as we age.
That’s because an increase in intraocular pressure can cause glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Typically, glaucoma causes no noticeable symptoms — until permanent vision loss begins.
At Wolchok Eye Associates, our team offers routine IOP evaluations during comprehensive eye exams. IOP evaluations are simple and very fast, but they can provide a wealth of critical information about your eye health, so you can take steps to preserve your vision as you get older.
IOP: The basics
Your eye might seem like a solid ball. But inside, it’s filled with a gel-like liquid called vitreous humor. There’s also a layer of clear fluid, called the aqueous humor, located between your cornea and your iris.
The aqueous humor is continually refreshing itself: old fluid drains out through the eye’s natural drainage system as new fluid is produced by the tissue around your iris. The drainage system helps keep the aqueous humor at a steady level, which also maintains the eye pressure.
Sometimes, though, the drainage system is damaged or malfunctions, and the eye fluid can’t drain properly. As new fluid is produced, the old fluid doesn’t drain as rapidly as it should, leading to a buildup of fluid and an increase in pressure inside your eye.
IOP and glaucoma
Glaucoma vision loss happens when the nerve fibers inside your eye are damaged. These nerve fibers carry signals and information to your optic nerve, which in turn carries those signals to your brain.
As the pressure inside your eye builds up, the nerve fibers become compressed, resulting in a loss of vision. Over time, they can become permanently damaged. The disc at the end of the optic nerve begins to bulge inward, forming a cup shape that can be seen during a comprehensive eye exam.
There are two main “types” of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, occurring when your eye still drains, but the drainage is slowed down. Acute angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage system is completely blocked. This type of glaucoma causes a rapid loss of vision, and it’s far less common than open-angle glaucoma.
Glaucoma prevention and treatment
Glaucoma is sometimes called the “silent thief of sight” because it rarely causes any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. In fact, many people don’t know they have the disease until they experience those first signs of permanent vision loss.
Having regular comprehensive eye exams is the best way to “catch” glaucoma before it causes vision loss. During your exam, the doctor measures your eye pressure and examines the optic disc and other eye structures for signs of damage.
When glaucoma is diagnosed, it can often be treated with eye drops to manage the fluid balance inside your eye. If drops aren’t sufficient, we might suggest a laser procedure to improve drainage or advanced eye surgery to “rebuild” the drainage system.
Protect your vision
Regular eye exams play an essential role in maintaining healthy eyes and clear vision. If you’re due for an eye exam, call our office in Jacksonville, Florida, or book an appointment online today.