Hypertension and the Eye

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Like Diabetes, Hypertension (HTN) can cause significant eye damage, even blindness. 
Hypertensive retinopathy is the damage to the retina from high blood pressure. The retina is the layer of tissue at the back part of the eye. It changes light and images that enter the eye into nerve signals that are sent to the brain.

High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the retina. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it has been high, the more severe the damage is likely to be. 

When you have diabetes, high cholesterol levels, or you smoke, you have a higher risk of damage and vision loss. Rarely, a condition called malignant hypertension develops. Blood pressure readings suddenly become very high. Sometimes, the sudden rise in blood pressure can cause more severe changes in the eye.

Other problems with the retina are also more likely to occur, such as:

  • Ischemic optic neuropathy — damage to the nerves in the eye due to poor blood flow
  • Retinal artery occlusion — blockage of the blood supply in the arteries to the retina
  • Retinal vein occlusion

The best defense against losing sight to HTN is a combination of regular medical physicals with your primary health care provider, and an annual eye health evaluation.  Statistics show the average patient sees their eye doctor 3.84 times as often as their primary health care provider, and we routinely are the first to identify at risk patients.