A detailed ocular examination, including perimetry, was conducted on 5308 black and white subjects aged 40 years and older in a population-based prevalence survey in east Baltimore, Md. Repeated, detailed examinations were carried out on selected subjects. Roughly half of all subjects with optic nerve damage from primary open angle glaucoma, regardless of race, were unaware that they had the condition. The average intraocular pressure (IOP) among black patients with glaucoma who were receiving treatment was virtually identical to that in those black patients who were not receiving treatment (median IOP, 20 mm Hg); treated eyes of white patients had a lower IOP than those eyes of white patients who were not receiving treatment (mean [+/- SD] IOP, 18.69 +/- 3.23 mm Hg vs 24.15 +/- 5.23 mm Hg; P less than .001). The risk of glaucomatous optic nerve damage increased with the height of the screening IOP, particularly at levels of 22 to 29 and 30 mm Hg and above (relative rate compared with IOP of 15 mm Hg or lower, 12.8 and 40.1 mm Hg, respectively). More than half of all glaucomatous eyes had a screening IOP below 21 mm Hg, whether these eyes were receiving treatment or not. The IOP in glaucomatous eyes tended to rise on follow-up, in contrast with nonglaucomatous eyes in which the IOP was as likely to rise as to fall. Results confirmed that IOP is an important factor in glaucoma, but did not support the traditional distinction between "normal" and "elevated" pressure, nor its corollaries, "low-tension" glaucoma and "high-tension" glaucoma.