Know All About High Blood Pressure and Eye Disease
Hypertension is characterized by an increase in the blood pressure on your blood vessels. In its initial stages, hypertension causes no signs or symptoms. However, undiagnosed high blood pressure can cause many complications in the body and prove potentially fatal. When the blood pressure increases, it can also affect your eyes, and subsequently, your vision. The most common eye condition caused by hypertension is hypertensive retinopathy.
Studies found that hypertensive retinopathy occurs in about 25.3% of people with mild hypertension, 34.5% of people with moderate hypertension, and 84.6% people with severe hypertension.
What is Hypertensive Retinopathy?
Our eyes contain tiny, delicate blood vessels that provide nourishment to the various layers of the eye, including the retina. Retina (also called the screen of the eye) is located at the back of your eye. This layer is responsible for converting light signals into nerve signals sent to the brain for interpretation.
When you suffer from high blood pressure, the walls of the blood vessels in your eye may thicken and become narrow. This reduces blood supply to your retina, causing it to swell up. If not corrected in time, high blood pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision trouble called hypertensive retinopathy. This is how high blood pressure and eye disease are related.
Risk Factors for Hypertensive Retinopathy
Not everyone with high blood pressure develops hypertensive retinopathy. Some risk factors for this condition are:
- Long-term or prolonged high blood pressure that is not controlled
- History of heart disease
- High cholesterol levels
- An unhealthy diet rich in trans fats, processed and fried foods
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
- Atherosclerosis ( a condition in which the walls of the blood vessels have fat deposits, which narrow your blood vessels and cause a further increase in blood pressure levels)
What are the Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy?
Just like hypertension, hypertensive retinopathy shows almost no symptoms until its later stages. However, there patients might experience some signs like:
- Headaches- frequent and chronic
- Vision troubles including blurry, dim, or doubled vision
- Swelling in the eye
- Bursting of a blood vessel in the eye
How is Hypertensive Retinopathy Treated?
If you experience one or more symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy or are worried about the complications of hypertension, you must visit your doctor immediately. Hypertensive retinopathy is usually diagnosed using an ophthalmoscope or fluorescein angiography.
The treatment for this condition includes controlling your blood pressure levels and bringing them within normal limits. This can be achieved through:
- Medication: Common anti-hypertensive medications that are prescribed include Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers diuretics, and beta-blockers, among others.
- Lifestyle changes: Small yet significant lifestyle changes made can help you control your blood pressure levels better. Some of these measures include eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing your salt intake, regular physical activity, limiting or completely quitting habits like smoking and alcohol consumption.
How Can You Prevent Hypertensive Retinopathy?
Many of you must be wondering if hypertensive retinopathy is a preventable condition. The answer is yes. Not everyone with hypertension will develop hypertensive retinopathy. Some practical ways to prevent it are:
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly
- Start exercising and ensure you get a minimum of 30-minutes of physical activity every day
- Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet
- Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol
- Get regular medical tests done
There are many high blood pressure dangers that most people are unaware of, including hypertensive retinopathy. If you suffer from high blood pressure, you must visit your physician regularly and keep your levels under check at all times. Keeping your blood pressure within normal limits is an effective way to protect all other organs from the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
Note of caution: This article is for information purposes only. Always consult your doctor before altering any diet plans, medications or in case of any other blood pressure-related troubles.