Did you know that the pressure inside your eyes plays a crucial role in your overall eye health? Elevated eye pressure can lead to serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma, and even vision loss. This blog post will demystify eye pressure, exploring its basics, common causes, and potential treatment options. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of how to maintain healthy eyes and prevent eye pressure issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Understanding Eye Pressure is important for maintaining eye health and avoiding potential complications.

  • Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential to keep intraocular pressure in the normal range, while common causes of increased eye pressure include glaucoma, ocular hypertension, and sinus infections.

  • Taking proactive steps such as regular checkups, healthy lifestyle choices & being aware of family history can help maintain healthy eyes & prevent issues with elevated eye pressure.

Understanding Eye Pressure: The Basics

Measuring eye pressure with a tonometer.

Eye pressure, or intraocular pressure (IOP), refers to the fluid pressure inside the eye. Preserving eye health and avoiding potential complications necessitates maintaining a normal eye pressure range. Typically, eye pressure ranges between 10 and 21 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). However, various factors can influence eye pressure, such as:

  • headaches

  • sinus infections

  • dental issues

  • optic neuritis

  • Graves’ disease

Indicators of increased eye pressure may include:

  • A severe headache

  • Blurred vision

  • Eye pain

  • Redness in the eyes

A prompt consultation with your eye doctor is necessary if you experience any of these symptoms to avoid potential eye conditions like glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

Intraocular Pressure

Intraocular pressure (IOP) is the fluid pressure inside the eye and is generated by the production and drainage of aqueous humor. This fluid plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity and health of the eye. With advancing age, intraocular pressure tends to gradually increase.

Regular monitoring of eye pressure is necessary as elevated levels can engender serious eye conditions.

Normal Eye Pressure Range

Eye pressure is usually between 10 and 21 mmHg. This range is considered to be normal. However, individual factors, such as:

  • percent body fat

  • blood pressure

  • age

  • corneal thickness

  • medications

  • systemic diseases

  • family history

can influence the normal eye pressure range.

Elevated intraocular pressure can lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss if left unchecked. Undergoing regular comprehensive eye exams is vital to ensure that your eye pressure remains within the normal range and early identification of potential issues.

Elevated Eye Pressure

Elevated eye pressure occurs when fluid accumulates in the interior of the eye. It is estimated that approximately 3-6 million individuals in the US have intraocular pressures of 21 mmHg or higher. Increased eye pressure may be caused by the eye producing too much fluid or the drainage system not functioning optimally. The trabecular meshwork, a tissue located at the angle between the iris and cornea, is responsible for draining the aqueous humor.

Untreated sinus infections can also lead to eye-related issues, as the inflammation can affect blood circulation to the eyes, resulting in blurred vision and increased eye pressure. If you suspect a sinus infection, consult your family doctor to avoid potential complications.

Common Causes of Increased Eye Pressure

Some of the most common causes of increased eye pressure include:

  • Glaucoma: a group of eye conditions that can cause damage to the optic nerve, typically due to increased pressure in the eye

  • Ocular hypertension: increased pressure within the eye without causing damage to the optic nerve or changes in vision

  • Sinus infections: can affect blood circulation to the eyes and result in blurred vision

Each of these common causes will be examined in more detail in the subsequent sections.


Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can cause damage to the optic nerve, typically due to increased pressure in the eye. The primary causes of glaucoma include elevated intraocular pressure and fluid accumulation, which can lead to optic nerve damage.

Glaucoma manifests in various forms, such as:

  • Open-angle glaucoma

  • Angle-closure glaucoma

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma

  • Normal-tension glaucoma

Preventing vision loss requires early detection and treatment of glaucoma through regular eye exams.

Ocular Hypertension

Ocular hypertension is a condition characterized by elevated intraocular pressure, which is a risk factor for glaucoma. The potential causes of ocular hypertension include:

  • Increased fluid production in the eye

  • Inadequate drainage of fluid

  • Certain eye disorders

  • Injuries to the eye

  • Certain medications such as steroids

Ocular hypertension typically does not present with any visible signs or symptoms. Regular monitoring of eye pressure is important to avoid potential complications, like glaucoma.

Sinus Infection

Sinusitis, or sinus infection, is an inflammation of the tissues in the sinuses, typically caused by an infection from a virus, bacteria, or fungus. Sinus infections have been observed to affect eye pressure, particularly in individuals with glaucoma.

Symptoms of sinus infection-related eye pressure may include:

  • Throbbing pain and pressure around the eyeballs

  • Pain and tenderness around the eyes, cheeks, nose, or forehead

  • A feeling of pressure in the upper part of the face, including behind the eyes

Consulting a healthcare professional before using pain relievers is essential in such cases to ensure they do not adversely affect eye pressure.

Types of Glaucoma and Their Symptoms

There are various types of glaucoma, each with its own unique symptoms and characteristics. Open-angle glaucoma is the most prevalent form and is characterized by a gradual rise in intraocular pressure due to inadequate drainage. Angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, occurs when the iris bulges and partially or completely obstructs the drainage angle, leading to increased eye pressure.

Normal-tension glaucoma is another type where optic nerve damage occurs despite normal eye pressure, possibly due to sensitivity or reduced blood flow. For early detection and treatment, it’s crucial to understand the different types and symptoms of glaucoma.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and is characterized by a gradual rise in intraocular pressure due to inadequate drainage. This type of glaucoma is typically caused by a disruption in the eye’s natural drainage system, resulting in a gradual rise in intraocular pressure. Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma may include increased intraocular pressure, widened cup to disc ratio or decreased optic rim area, beta peripapillary atrophy, disc hemorrhage, decreased central corneal thickness, and reduced visual acuity.

Preventing further damage to the optic nerve and vision loss necessitates early detection and management of open-angle glaucoma.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is a condition in which the iris bulges and partially or completely obstructs the drainage angle, resulting in increased eye pressure. This type of glaucoma is more likely to occur in individuals with specific risk factors, such as:

  • Age

  • Ethnicity (Inuit or East Asian)

  • Gender (female)

  • Eye anatomy (shallow anterior chamber, shorter axial length)

Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma can include eye pain, redness, swelling, and blurred vision, among others. Immediate medical attention is necessary if you suspect acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma

Normal-tension glaucoma is a condition in which optic nerve damage occurs despite normal eye pressure, possibly due to sensitivity or reduced blood flow. Patients with normal-tension glaucoma may experience the following symptoms:

  • Blurred vision

  • Decrease in peripheral vision

  • Difficulty seeing in low-contrast settings

  • Color vision deficits

  • Migraine headaches

The exact causes of normal-tension glaucoma are not yet fully understood, but potential contributing factors include abnormalities in blood flow to the optic nerve and structural weakness of the optic nerve tissue.

Other Conditions Linked to Eye Pressure

Aside from glaucoma and ocular hypertension, there are other conditions linked to eye pressure, such as optic neuritis, Graves’ disease, and tooth pain. These conditions can also affect eye pressure, leading to discomfort and potential complications if left untreated.

The subsequent sections will explore these conditions, their symptoms, and their connection to eye pressure.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve that can lead to various symptoms, including:

  • Blurred vision

  • Vision loss in one eye

  • Eye pain that is exacerbated by eye movement

  • Diminished vision

  • Difficulty distinguishing colors

  • Reduced color vision

  • Pain when exposed to bright light

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention.

Optic neuritis is closely associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), as approximately half of those diagnosed with MS will experience optic neuritis, and it can be a sign of the disease in its early stages.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder characterized by an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). This disease can cause thyroid eye disease (TED), which may result in bulging eyes and pressure, potentially leading to vision loss. It is estimated that approximately 25-50% of patients with Graves’ disease experience elevated eye pressure due to an increase in episcleral venous pressure.

Symptoms of thyroid eye disease may include dry eyes, irritation, redness in the eyes, inflammation, and puffiness around the eyes.

Tooth Pain

Dental issues can cause head pressure or pain behind the eyes, as well as tension headaches. Tooth pain or pressure behind the eyes may be attributed to dental issues, such as misalignment of the teeth or missing teeth. Symptoms of eye pressure related to tooth pain may include headache, eye pain, vision difficulties, and in some cases, serious eye diseases such as glaucoma.

If you suspect a connection between tooth pain and eye pressure, it’s important to consult both a dentist and an optometrist to ascertain the root cause of the issue.

Diagnosing and Measuring Eye Pressure

Detecting and measuring eye pressure is essential for early diagnosis and treatment of eye pressure issues. Various diagnostic tools can help assess eye pressure, including comprehensive eye exams, tonometry tests, and visual field tests.

These tests help eye doctors identify any abnormalities or issues related to eye pressure and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Comprehensive Eye Exam

A comprehensive eye exam includes:

  • A review of your medical history

  • Visual acuity testing

  • Color blindness test

  • Ocular motility test

  • Other assessments tailored to your needs

These tests are conducted by your ophthalmologist or optometrist to evaluate your visual acuity, eye health, and overall eye function.

Preserving eye health and early detection of any possible eye pressure issues necessitates regular comprehensive eye exams.

Tonometry Test

A tonometry test is a diagnostic procedure that measures intraocular pressure, or the pressure inside the eye. Tonometry tests are generally accurate for measuring eye pressure, with the accuracy varying depending on the type of tonometry test used. Handheld non-contact applanation tonometers have been found to be fairly accurate and reliable for measuring intraocular pressure.

The Goldmann applanation tonometry is often considered the “gold standard” for measuring eye pressure. Though considered safe, there is a slight possibility of corneal scratching during the test.

Visual Field Test

A visual field test is a diagnostic procedure used to measure an individual’s peripheral vision. It is conducted by an ophthalmologist to detect any blind spots or areas of vision loss. The results of the test are typically displayed as patterns of dots or numbers.

While a visual field test does not directly assess eye pressure, it helps to identify any deficits or abnormalities in the visual field, which can be a significant indicator of eye conditions such as glaucoma.

Treatment Options for Managing Eye Pressure

There are several treatment options available for managing eye pressure, including:

  • Eye drops

  • Oral medications

  • Laser therapy

  • Surgery

These treatments aim to lower eye pressure by reducing fluid production or improving drainage, ultimately preventing further damage to the optic nerve and potential vision loss.

Eye Drops

Eye drops are commonly prescribed medications for managing eye pressure. They work by decreasing the production of fluid within the eye, thereby leading to a decrease in eye pressure. Prostaglandin analogs and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are common types of eye drops used to manage eye pressure.

Adhering to your physician’s instructions when administering eye drops and avoiding touching the tip of the eye dropper to your eye or any other surface is important.

Oral Medications

Oral medications can be used in conjunction with eye drops to lower eye pressure. These medications, such as Acetazolamide, beta-blockers, and prostaglandins, target specific mechanisms in the eye to reduce eye pressure. They work by decreasing the production of fluid in the eye or improving drainage, thereby reducing intraocular pressure.

Confirming there are no potential interactions between the oral medications and any other medicines you may be taking with a healthcare professional or pharmacist is important.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy, or laser trabeculoplasty, is a non-invasive procedure used to reduce intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. This procedure involves utilizing a medical laser to enhance drainage in the eye and avert further damage to the optic nerve.

Laser therapy can be an effective option for managing eye pressure, especially for those who cannot tolerate eye drops or oral medications.


Surgical options are available for managing eye pressure when other treatments have proven ineffective or intolerable. These invasive procedures aim to create new drainage channels or remove blockages, ultimately reducing eye pressure and preventing further optic nerve damage.

Traditional surgery, such as trabeculectomy, involves implanting a tiny tube or shunt onto the white part of the eye to facilitate the draining of excess fluid. Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) is another option that works by circumventing the trabecular meshwork or augmenting the outflow of aqueous humor in the eye to reduce intraocular pressure.

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Eyes and Preventing Eye Pressure Issues

For overall eye health, maintaining healthy eyes and preventing eye pressure issues is crucial. By adopting a few simple tips, such as having regular comprehensive eye exams, making healthy lifestyle choices, and being aware of your family history, you can take proactive steps to monitor your eye health and prevent potential complications.

Regular Comprehensive Eye Exams

Preserving eye health and early detection of any possible eye pressure issues necessitates regular comprehensive eye exams. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that adults receive a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years to ensure optimal eye health.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will measure your intraocular pressure (IOP) using a tonometry test, which can help identify any potential eye pressure issues and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Adopting a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress levels can all help to reduce the risk of developing eye pressure issues and other eye health problems. Some ways to maintain good eye health include:

  • Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids

  • Getting regular exercise, such as walking or swimming

  • Taking breaks from screens and practicing good eye hygiene

  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga

Regular exercise has been found to protect against blood vessel overgrowth, lower intraocular pressure, reduce the risk of glaucoma, and maintain overall cardiovascular health.

Additionally, stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques, can be beneficial for eye health.

Know Your Family History

For early detection and prevention of eye pressure issues, it’s essential to be aware of your family history. Many eye conditions, including glaucoma, can be inherited, so if you have a family history of eye pressure issues, you may be at an increased risk of developing them. By being aware of your family history, you can take proactive steps to monitor your eye health, undergo regular eye exams, and take preventive measures to reduce the risk of eye pressure issues.


In conclusion, understanding eye pressure and its potential causes is crucial for maintaining healthy eyes and preventing vision loss. By recognizing the symptoms of various eye conditions, such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension, you can take proactive steps towards early detection and treatment. Regular comprehensive eye exams, healthy lifestyle choices, and knowing your family history are all essential elements in preserving eye health and preventing eye pressure issues. Remember, taking care of your eyes today can help ensure a lifetime of clear vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the symptoms of high eye pressure?

High eye pressure often causes pain inside and around the eye, blurred vision, blind spots, red eyes, irritation, discomfort, and headaches.

What causes pressure behind the eye?

To reduce eye pressure, try exercising moderately for 20-30 minutes to raise your heart rate, or engage in low-impact anaerobic exercises such as yoga. Additionally, limit your caffeine intake, sip fluids carefully, and take prescribed medications. Eating a healthy diet can also help maintain your eye health.

What is considered dangerously high eye pressure?

Eye pressure above 21mmHg is considered high and requires assessment and monitoring from a healthcare professional. Anything 40-50mmHg or above is especially dangerous and can lead to rapid vision loss.

What does eye pressure pain feel like?

Eye pressure pain is often described as intense, sudden pain in the eye with accompanying symptoms of headache and sometimes even vomiting. It may feel like a stabbing, searing, stinging, throbbing, squeezing or tightness sensation in the head just behind the eyes. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications.


  1. Understanding Ocular Hypertension
    American Academy of Ophthalmology
    Understanding Ocular Hypertension
  2. What Is Glaucoma? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment
    American Academy of Ophthalmology
    What Is Glaucoma?
  3. Ocular Hypertension: 5 Causes of High Eye Pressure
    Glaucoma Research Foundation
    Ocular Hypertension: 5 Causes of High Eye Pressure
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    National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
    The Pathophysiology and Treatment of Glaucoma: A Review
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    Glaucoma Medications During Pregnancy and Nursing
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    High Eye Pressure and Glaucoma
  8. Lifestyle, Natural Home Remedies for Glaucoma and Eye Pressure
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    Natural Home Remedies for Glaucoma and Eye Pressure


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.


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