High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can harm organs and tissues throughout your body, including your eyes. Blurry, distorted vision and even permanent vision loss could result if you have high blood pressure that goes unchecked.
How does this condition have such a damaging effect on your eyesight?
Hypertension Is a Serious Health Problem
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 29 percent of American adults — 75 million people — suffer from hypertension, another word for high blood pressure.
Hypertension is a condition in which the force of the blood against the inside of the arteries is too great. This excessive force damages the blood vessels and compromises the amount of oxygen-rich blood delivered to the tissues and organs, as well as limits the blood vessels’ ability to filter away toxins.
Hypertension can lead to stroke, cardiovascular disease and more complications, including vision problems.
What Is Hypertensive Retinopathy?
Hypertensive retinopathy is one of the main ways hypertension can hurt your eyesight. This condition is occurs when the walls of the blood vessels leading to the eye’s retina thicken as a result of hypertension.
Narrowed blood vessels mean less blood flows to this area of the eye. This can lead to permanent damage to the retina’s blood vessels and make the retina and the eye’s optic nerve swell.
Are You Experiencing These Symptoms?
The problem with hypertensive retinopathy is that you don’t experience symptoms until the condition has significantly progressed. Some signs you may be affected include:
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- Burst blood vessels in the eyes
- Swollen eyes
If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your eye doctor right away.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your eye doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to project light into the back of your eye and check the retina for swelling or leaking blood vessels. The doctor may also test retinal blood flow by dilating your pupils, injecting dye and taking before-and-after pictures to track the movement of the dye through your eye’s blood vessels.
Your eye doctor will diagnose hypertensive retinopathy based on the Keith-Wagener-Barker classification system, giving your condition a grade from 1 to 4. In grade 1, you only show minor retinal swelling, but in grade 4, the condition is severe. Typically, if you’re diagnosed at stage 4, you will also be at risk of other dangerous health conditions like a stroke.
The only way to treat hypertensive retinopathy is by controlling hypertension. It’s imperative to visit your primary care physician for a complete physical. You will need to make lifestyle changes in addition to potentially adding medications to your daily routine that will bring your blood pressure back within a normal range. Start exercising more, quit smoking and analyze your diet, ensuring you have a healthy daily intake of the right foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Don’t let high blood pressure take away your vision and compromise your health. Schedule an eye exam at Salt Lake Eye Associates today, and get the eye care you need to diagnose any vision deficiencies and address problems before they escalate.