High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Eye Disease
Having high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels around the eye, resulting in eye disease and affecting vision.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) can cause many health problems, including stroke, heart attack and kidney disease. Perhaps a less well-known effect of raised blood pressure is eye disease.
Serious health conditions
One in four people have high blood pressure, even though many may not be aware of it. Having high blood pressure impacts the way in which the organs in the body work, and can put the person at risk of serious, life-threatening health conditions.
Being over the age of 65 increases the chance of having high blood pressure, as does being overweight or obese, not being active enough, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol or caffeine.
High blood pressure can also put strain on the eyes, and cause eye disease and sight problems.
‘Hypertensive retinopathy’ is when there is damage to the retina (the thin layer of tissue lining the back of the eye) due to high blood pressure.
Narrowed blood vessels
High blood pressure can lead to the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina narrowing. This means less blood can get to the eyes, which can damage the retina and mean that vision is impaired. Eventually, blood may even leak into parts of the retina.
Symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy include having double vision or less clear vision, sudden loss of vision, or regular headaches.
An optician or eye doctor can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy by using a special machine to look at the back of the eye to see if the blood vessels are narrowed. The level of the condition is usually graded in seriousness from one to four.
If someone is diagnosed with hypertensive retinopathy, they will be advised to try and lower their blood pressure. Medication may be prescribed by their doctor, as well as adaptions to lifestyle being recommended, such as cutting down on salt in the diet, doing more exercise, reducing alcohol intake, losing weight and stopping smoking.
Indicator for other problems
Some people may find out about their high blood pressure through getting their eyes checked out.
Eye tests can help diagnose conditions that impact other parts of the body, such as high blood pressure, and so help the person get help for those other conditions earlier than they otherwise would have.
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