You have heard of hypertension and high blood pressure, but have you ever heard of high eye pressure? Also known as ocular hypertension, high eye pressure is one of the most widespread conditions that affect the aging population.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell by yourself that you have this condition. This is probably because there are no outward signs like red eyes or eye pain.
The worst part is that if left untreated, high eye pressure can cause permanent vision loss and glaucoma in some individuals.
There are many effective ways on how to lower or relieve eye pressure. So, in this article, we’re going to discuss some of the methods and the science behind them.
What is Eye Pressure/ Ocular Hypertension?
Eye pressure is a condition that occurs when the intraocular pressure inside the eye is higher than normal. Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mmHg. So, ocular hypertension is an eye pressure that is greater than 21 mm Hg.
It is normal to experience a fluctuation of eye pressure throughout the day. That said, it is important to take the right steps should the symptoms persist.
Fortunately, some natural ways to maintain healthy eye pressure home might provide you with a good first line of defence.
Natural Ways on How to Lower/Relieve Eye Pressure
These are simple eye pressure lowering suggestions that can make a huge difference in how you feel.
1. Avoid High Glycemic Index Foods
Insulin resistance has been linked to high intra-ocular pressure, acronym IOP (1). In addition to having your blood sugar levels checked, it might be a good idea to go slow on foods that may trigger sudden rises in glucose levels. These foods include: bread, rice, sugar, potatoes, sodas, pasta, and cereal.
2. Do the Right Exercises to Lower Ocular Hypertension
Aerobic workouts can help improve blood flow to the brain and the eyes (2). So, if there’s one thing you can do to ease the pressure in your eyes at home, it’s exercising. 20 minutes of aerobics done four times a week are usually enough to raise pulse rate – effectively enhancing blood flow.
Try and incorporate low-impact exercises into your daily routine e.g., walking, jogging, biking, aerobics, and swimming.
That said, you should avoid workouts and positions that place you in a head-down position. Such include some yoga positions as they could increase intraocular pressure.
3. Minimize Stress, Give Yourself a Much-Needed Break
Elevated levels of stress have been shown to cause increased eye pressure (3). However, the exact way in which stress contributes to raised IOP remains a topic that divides the entire ophthalmology community.
What is clear, however, is that excessive mental activity, scheming, and overthinking can lead to a significant rise in eye pressure.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Develop new hobbies and explore them. Get plenty of rest and take a nice hot bath.
In short, do more of the things that make you happier save for health-damaging activities like smoking and drinking alcohol.
4. Eating a Healthy Diet Can Help with Lowering IOP
While high GI food items are known to increase IOP, some like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, some antioxidants, and vitamins are known to do the exact opposite. So, as a long-term measure for reversing your eye pressure symptoms, you want to load up on those.
Blueberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Brussel sprouts, asparagus, lettuce, and peas are excellent sources of zeaxanthin and lutein.
Omega 3 capsules along with some fish are also excellent sources of the fatty acids needed to maintain healthy vision and overcome intraocular pressure.
Most importantly, don’t forget to load up on fruits as they are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and E all which are needed for a healthy vision.
5. Limit or Avoid Caffeine & Trans Fats
Consuming large amounts of caffeine may increase ocular hypertension especially among those living with Glaucoma (4). So, as a safety measure you should cut back on the amounts of energy drinks, coffee, cola, chocolate, tea, and other caffeinated drinks you take.
And don’t get us wrong dear coffee lovers. 1 or 2 cups of the beverage per day might just be fine, just avoid extremities.
More importantly, you should avoid foods that are rich in trans fats like packaged cookies, cakes, fried foods, margarine, crackers, and other baked goods.
Such foods may indirectly lead to increased eye pressure by increasing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body – effectively causing blood vessels to become thinner (5).
Causes of High Eye Pressure
The causes of ocular hypertension are virtually the same as those of glaucoma. That is probably why if this condition is left untreated, it could lead to glaucoma. Below are the 5 main causes of high eye pressure.
Excessive production of aqueous
Aqueous is a clear, watery fluid produced in the eye just behind the iris. The fluid usually flows through the pupil and then drains via a structure caller the trabecular meshwork. Its main purpose is to carry oxygen and nutrients to the lens, which helps maintain pressure.
Sometimes, the body can produce excess aqueous. Unfortunately, when this fluid is produced at a higher rate than it can drain, this can cause increased eye pressure.
Trauma to the eye
Some injuries to the eye may affect the balance of aqueous production and drainage. Consequently, this could lead to ocular hypertension.
It is worth mentioning that trauma can affect your eyes months or even years after the actual injury has taken place. Therefore, you should let your doctor know if you have ever suffered an injury in the past.
The aqueous fluid is designed to continually flow from the eye. However, when the flow is restricted and the fluid drains slowly from the eye, this could disrupt the normal balance. As a result, it could lead to high eye pressure.
According to a 2013 study (6), certain drugs can induce ocular hypertension. Some of these include steroids, adrenergic, antidepressants, and anticholinergics.
For the steroids, they include those used to treat asthma and even steroid eye drops used after LASIK. So, if you have been prescribed steroid medications for any reason, you should consult with your eye doctor. This way, he/she can tell you how frequently you should get your IOP checked.
Other eye conditions
High eye pressure has been associated with several other eye conditions. These include corneal arcus, pseudoexfoliation syndrome, and pigment dispersion syndrome.
Therefore, if you have any of these conditions, you might need to have frequent eye exams and eye pressure measurements.
Who is at a High Risk of Developing Ocular Hypertension?
According to a study (7), there are various risk factors to be considered in the follow-up of glaucoma suspects. Some of these include age, heredity, arterial hypertension, myopia, among others.
This means that anyone can develop high eye pressure. However, some people have a higher risk of suffering from this condition than others. For instance, it is estimated that adults older than 40 are 10% more likely to have intraocular pressures of 21 mm Hg or higher.
Additionally, your race and family history may increase your risk of developing eye pressure and glaucoma. So, if members of your immediate family suffer from ocular hypertension, there is a higher chance that you may also be at risk.
Some studies have also found that the average intraocular pressure in African-Americans is higher than in whites. However, other studies didn’t find any difference.
Also, some studies suggest that women could be at a higher risk of developing high eye pressure, especially after menopause.
Any Medical Treatments for Eye Pressure?
Glaucoma and vision loss cannot be reversed (8). However, it is possible to lower eye pressure if caught early enough. Some of the most effective treatment options include:
Your eye doctor may prescribe you eye drops in the initial stages of ocular hypertension. These drops will help minimize the amount of aqueous fluid made by the eye or improve the flow.
If the eye drops are not effective at alleviating the eye pressure or discomfort, you may be prescribed other medications. However, these oral medications may have potential side effects like stomach upset, tingling in the finger, kidney stones, and frequent urination.
If the eye pressure persists, it can damage the optic nerve, thereby leading to glaucoma. In such cases, surgery would be the best option. The surgery will improve the flow of fluid within the eyes and as a result, lower eye pressure.
Anyone can develop eye pressure. Therefore, knowing the different methods available on how to lower/relieve eye pressure is essential. But since it is hard to tell if you have ocular hypertension, it is advisable to get regular eye exams. This is because it is the only way to detect some eye conditions including high eye pressure.