High blood pressure is a risk factor for more than heart and kidney problems. Suffering from poorly controlled or untreated high blood pressure (hypertension) for a long period can affect your eye health and cause eye diseases.
Hypertension-Induced Eye Problems
Hypertension can damage the tiny blood vessels that supply blood to your eyes, causing:
- Hypertensive retinopathy
Retinopathy means damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the pigmented part at the back of the eye that receives images and sends them through the optic nerve to the brain. High blood pressure can lead to bleeding in the eye and loss of retinal blood supply, causing swelling, pain, blurred vision, or complete loss of vision.
Choroidopathy is the buildup of fluid in the choroid (collection of blood vessels) that lies below the retina. This condition usually affects young people who experience a sudden spike in blood pressure. This may be seen in renal hypertension, preeclampsia, and in cases of tumors secreting substances that can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure. Choroidopathy can result in distorted vision or scarring that impairs vision.
- Optic Neuropathy
High blood pressure can result in blocked blood flow, which can damage the optic nerve that connects the retina to the brain. Optic neuropathy can also occur if high blood pressure is overtreated, causing very low blood pressure. Neuropathy can lead to bleeding within the eye and permanent blindness.
High blood pressure is a significant factor that accelerates the progress of already present eye diseases. Hypertension aggravates diabetic retinopathy, which is caused by high blood sugar damaging the retina. Individuals with high blood pressure are also prone to sudden vision loss caused by the formation of blood clots in the retinal artery and retinal vein. What’s more, high blood pressure may accelerate the onset of glaucoma, causing gradual blindness.
In addition to threatening the anatomy of the eye, hypertension can also cause a stroke. A stroke can damage the optic nerve of the area of the brain that processes images.
Prevention and Treatment of Hypertension-Induced Eye Problems
Early diagnosis of high blood pressure can help prevent or reverse eye disease. It’s important to get a comprehensive eye exam when hypertension is first diagnosed. An eye exam involves examining eye pressure, visual acuity, and the condition of the retina and optic nerve. A test known as a fluorescein angiography allows your eye doctor to see if the retinal cells are swollen, leaky, or in need of treatment.
If you already have symptoms, the following measures might help control your blood pressure and improve your eye health:
- Dietary changes with the inclusion of lots of fruits and vegetables
- Increasing your physical activity
- Losing excess weight and watching your waistline
- Cutting back on caffeine
- Reducing sodium in diet
- Reducing stress
- Quitting smoking
- Getting regular eye checks
Blood pressure medicines can help lower blood pressure levels and stop further damage to your eye cells.
Don’t allow hypertension to harm your eye health. Eye health is an important part of our overall health. Contact us to schedule your eye exam, or if you need more eye care tips, our experienced and friendly staff would be happy to help you.