More than a fourth of the adult population is affected by high blood pressure. This disease can be dangerous for the whole body, with the potential to cause serious damage to the heart and the kidneys. But did you know that high blood pressure can also have a dangerous effect on the eyes? While high blood pressure is affecting all the blood vessels in the body, it can also damage those vessels in and around the eye, causing a multitude of potential problems. Read on to learn more about eye conditions that can be caused by high blood pressure.
The most common ocular manifestation of high blood pressure, hypertensive retinopathy, occurs when the small vessels in the back of the eye (the retina) are adversely affected by the disease. Stress on retinal blood vessels can lead to leakage of blood or proteins, areas of ischemia which are deprived of oxygen, or even cause swelling of the optic nerve due to congested blood vessels. Hypertensive retinopathy has the potential to be sight-threatening if not appropriately managed.
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy
In this dangerous condition, the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting information from the eye to the brain, can become permanently damaged due to lack of blood flow. When hypertension adversely affects the blood vessels that supply the optic nerve, this important neural tissue is injured, which may result in painless but significant vision loss. Ischemic optic neuropathy can have many causes, but high blood pressure can result in this condition by narrowing arteries that supply the optic nerve and increasing blood thickness, resulting in a lack of much-needed oxygen to the surface of the nerve.
Many small blood vessels run through the retina, but these smaller vessels are primarily supplied by one major artery and one major vein. Any disruption in this vasculature due to high blood pressure can result in significant vision loss. In a retinal artery occlusion, the main artery supplying blood to the retina is blocked. This causes a significant portion of the retina, or even the entire retina, to lose blood flow, resulting in permanently damaged retinal tissue. In a retinal vein occlusion, the primary vein that drains blood away from the retina is clogged, leaving the blood to spill out of the vein and into the retina. Both retinal artery and retinal vein occlusions oftentimes result in sudden-onset, significant, and permanent vision loss.
Protecting Your Eyes from High Blood Pressure
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to follow the directions given by your primary care provider. Control your blood pressure with the appropriate diet, exercise, and medication if warranted. To ensure high blood pressure isn’t adversely affecting your ocular health, visit your eye doctor annually for a comprehensive eye examination. With a thorough retinal evaluation, your optometrist can ensure your high blood pressure is not having a negative impact on the health of your eyes.
At Neal Eye Group, we put the health of your eyes first. Our staff are happy to talk with you about myopia control for you and your family. Call us at (610) 828-9701. We serve Conshohocken, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Whitemarsh.