Keeping an Eye on High Blood Pressure

Since World Diabetes Day was on November 14th, now may be a good time to discuss a condition that often goes hand in hand with Diabetes, and that is Hypertension, or High Blood Pressure. I’m sure that everyone has heard the warnings about high blood pressure increasing the risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease. But are you aware that high blood pressure can damage your eyes as well?

Hypertension and Vision Loss

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, causes damage that restricts the flow of blood through the blood vessels. Your eye is literally filled with tiny blood vessels that help to collect data which is then transformed into images, giving you vision. Damage to those blood vessels can increase the risk of glaucoma and macular degeneration. Hypertension is also directly linked to the development of Choroidopathy, Optic Neuropathy and Hypertensive Retinopathy. In fact, your eyes may give you an early warning of high blood pressure. If your vision is blurry, or if you see “floaters” spots, dots or squiggles that appear at the edge of your vision, you may be receiving warning signs of elevated blood pressure.

What is Hypertensive Retinopathy?

Hypertensive Retinopathy affects your eye much the same way as Diabetic Retinopathy does, by swelling the blood vessels around the retina. Whereas diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels, hypertensive retinopathy is caused by increased pressure on the vessels, often due to the narrowing of the arteries. The end result is the same, swelling of the eye, reduced vision, bleeding in the back of the eye, and eventually, vision loss.

What are Hypertensive Choroidopathy and Optic Neuropathy?

Choroidopathy is caused by a buildup of fluid under the retina, often due to leaking blood vessels. The first symptom is distorted vision, but it can lead to scarring and permanent eye damage, potentially even retinal detachment.  Optic neuropathy is brought on by a blocked flow which damages the optic nerve, potentially causing bleeding in your eye, damaged or destroyed nerve cells and temporary or permanent vision loss.

How Do I Protect Myself from Hypertension Related Vision Damage?

The best way to protect yourself from vision loss related to high blood pressure is to do your utmost to take care of your health. This can be done through having a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excessive alcohol use, and by not smoking. Also, make sure to see your family doctor and your optometrist regularly. Take special care if you have a family history of hypertension. If you notice anything like blurred vision or begin seeing spots in front of your eyes, or if you notice anything out of the ordinary with your eyesight, see your optometrist immediately. Don’t take chances with your eyes, or your health.