March 6, 2013

Hypertension, or High Blood Pressure, can and does affect ocular health in many patients by causing a disorder known as Hypertensive Retinopathy. Hypertensive Retinopathy can damage the retina, the back layer of the eye where visual imaging occurs, which can severely deplete visual capabilities. Further, Hypertensive Retinopathy can signal to your ocular specialist that your blood pressure is not under control and you may be at a greater risk for severe systemic damages, including blindness, stroke, and even death. 

Unfortunately, Hypertensive Retinopathy is much like glaucoma, in that it can often be a “silent” until the disease has progressed to late or severe state. Symptoms can include: loss of vision (sometimes sudden), visual changes, double vision, blurred or dim vision, and headaches. If you experience any of these symptoms, especially if they occur suddenly, immediacy of treatment is one of the most important factors in potentially saving some of your vision. 

Depending on the severity of retinopathy, your eye care professional may wish to monitor your status or send you to a retinal specialist for further evaluation, which may include more extensive testing to determine blood vessel flow. Hypertensive retinopathy is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being minimal to no damage and 4 being severe damage, possibly including optic nerve or macular swelling and severe decreases to vision.

Treating your hypertension, whether with medications, diet, exercise, or a combination of the above, is the best method to ensure that hypertensive retinopathy is not an issue affecting your ocular health. Following with eye care professionals and your primary medical doctor may provide a significant boon to your overall health.