Both high blood pressure (hypertension) as well as high pressure in the eye (ocular hypertension) can cause damage to the optic nerve, which may lead to glaucoma. Hypertension can also worsen ocular hypertension and indirectly contribute to the development of glaucoma.
Ocular hypertension occurs when the eye either produces too much inner fluid, known as aqueous humor, or is unable to drain it. High blood pressure, stress, smoking and other eye diseases can contribute to ocular hypertension. However, ocular hypertension alone is not always enough to lead to glaucoma. A blockage of the eye’s blood supply, diabetes, surgery or tumors can cause optic nerve damage, either on their own or in conjunction with ocular hypertension. Certain risk factors, including race and age, have also been known to heighten the risk of developing glaucoma.
High blood pressure can contribute to the development of both main types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma involves a gradual blockage of the channels through which any excess aqueous humor normally flows. This type of glaucoma typically occurs over a long period of time and may be undetectable in early stages. In closed-angle glaucoma, the channels become blocked very suddenly.
An eye exam can reveal whether or not a patient has high blood pressure or ocular hypertension. The sooner treatment can begin to alleviate these conditions, the more likely the development of glaucoma can be slowed.