High blood pressure or hypertension can affect almost all the systems of your body, including heart, kidneys, and the brain. In fact, high blood pressure can also damage your eyes. As the blood pressure increases, it affects the blood vessels in the retina i.e. the back part of the eye which is responsible for vision. These blood vessels become narrower or constricted and undergo various changes over time. These changes in the retina due to high blood pressure which can damage your eyes are collectively called hypertensive retinopathy.
What is the nature of damage to the eye due to high blood pressure?
Most of the damage to the eyes due to high blood pressure has no symptoms and can only be picked up by an eye test. The various changes that happen because of high blood pressure can eventhreaten your vision. These include
Hypertensive retinopathy or damage to blood vessels of the retina: High blood pressure can damage the small arteries and veins that supply blood to your retina. This can lead to leakage of protein and fluid into the retina and also bleeding in the eye. This can result in blurred vision and even complete loss of vision. In case of coexistent diabetes and high blood pressure, the risk of bleeding increases many times.
Hypertensive choroidopathy or build up of fluid under the retina: The damaged blood vessels in the choroid, the layer of the eye beneath the retina, become leaky. Because of this, there is, fluid build-up under your retina. This can in distorted vision or even scarring which can cause decreased vision.
Optic neuropathy or nerve damage: Sometimes high blood pressure can cause serious damage to the nerve f the eye that connects it to the brain, the optic nerve. This happens when the blood supply to the optic nerve is interrupted, and can cause serious loss of vision.
What are the symptoms of damage to the eye due to high blood pressure?
Most of the damage due to high blood pressure does not result in any symptoms in the early to moderate stages. In fact, as many as half of thepatients who have high blood pressure do not realize that their eyes are being damaged because of the high blood pressure. This is why a routine comprehensive eye check by an ophthalmologist is essential to detect this condition early and help limit damage to your eyes.
What is the treatment for hypertensive retinopathy or damage to the eyes due to high blood pressure?
The first step for treating eye changes due to high blood pressure is strict control of the hypertension. This needs aradical and continuous change in lifestyle, includingdiet, and regular exercise, and as well as taking the prescribed medication regularly.
In addition, you must visit your eye doctor as scheduled by your health care professional, in addition to an annual eye examination. In case of severe damage, you will be seen and treated by a retina specialist. The modalities of treatment vary upon the kind and severity of damage, ranging from eye drops, laser, eye injections and even retina surgery.
As is true for all diseases, prevention is much better than cure. Also, the earlier the disease is detected, the less invasive is the treatment. It is therefore essential to make sure that your blood pressure, blood sugar and serum cholesterol are under control at all times. In addition, one must not ignore the annual eye check which can pick up the silent damage to the eye.