The eye requires a certain amount of internal pressure to maintain its shape - this is the intraocular pressure. Without intraocular pressure, it would deflate like a balloon without air and not work. This is because the layers of the eye are soft, not rigid, so they can only maintain their normal shape if there is an internal pressure. The intraocular pressure is determined by the balance of fluid flowing into the eye and fluid going back out: if fluid going in exceeds fluid going out the intraocular pressure goes up and visa versa. Much like blood pressure it is a dynamic process meaning that intraocular pressure will fluctuate throughout the day and over night. It is influenced by many factors including body position, dehydration, caffiene, exercise, inflammation and medications. A common misconception is that intraocular pressure is related to blood pressure - this is generally not the case. Intraocular pressure is considered statistically normal if it lies between 10-21mmHg but this does not apply to all individuals. Some eyes are perfectly healthy with intraocular pressures <10mmHg or >21mmHg, others require intraocular pressure reduction despite being within the 10-21mmHg range. An elevated intraocular pressure does not equal glaucoma however it is a very strong risk factor. Glaucoma can develop despite apparently normal intraocular pressure.
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