Eye pressure test: A routine part of every routine eye exam that measures the fluid pressure inside the eye. The test is called tonometry.
Increased pressure within the eye can be a sign of glaucoma, a common and potentially very serious eye problem, if it is not detected and treated promptly.
The pressure inside the eye is measured from the outside. The pressure can be measured without anything touching the eye. The patient looks up close at an instrument that blows a small puff of air into the eye and then uses a special kind of sensor (like a tiny radar detector) to detect the amount of indentation that the air puff causes on the surface of the eye. This indentation is normal and only lasts for a fraction of a second.
If patients need to have their eye pressure measured in a setting where this type of machine is not available (as in an emergency room), the pressure can be measured with an instrument resembling a pen. One end of the instrument is placed on the surface of the eyeball. This feels like having a contact lens put in the eye. However, tonometry does not cause significant pain and it is risk-free.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016