Hypertension And Vision Problems: How Can High Blood Pressure Affect Your Eyes
Hypertension, when left untreated, can lead to a series of problems and damage to other organs, such as the heart or the kidneys. However, in some situations, high blood flow can also lead to vision problems by interfering with the blood supply that the eyes are meant to receive in order to function properly. While treating high blood pressure can solve most of these issues, failure to do so in time can cause permanent damage.
Can High Blood Pressure Lead To Vision Loss
High blood pressure or hypertension puts you at risk of heart disease, stroke and even vision loss. Around 85 million people suffer from this condition in the United States.
In this post, Park Slope eye care specialists discuss the link between high blood pressure and vision loss.
Eye Conditions Caused by High Blood Pressure
The eyes contain many small blood vessels, which is why having high blood pressure can lead to various eye-related complications. Below are eye conditions that can develop due to hypertension.
1. Retinopathy or Blood Vessel Damage
This disease is due to a lack of blood flow to the retina. It may lead to blurry vision or complete eyesight loss. Patients who have diabetes and high blood pressure are at higher risk of developing blood vessel damage.
2. Choroidopathy or Fluid Buildup Under the Retina
Fluid buildup under the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, may cause distorted vision and scarring that affects vision.
3. Optic Neuropathy or Nerve Damage
Blocked blood flow ca damage the optic nerve and can kill the eyes nerve cells, which may lead to temporary or permanent vision impairment.
Hypertension is one of the major causes of stroke, which can damage the optic nerve or affect the area of the brain that processes images. Visit your eye doctor if youre experiencing any eye discomfort or vision problems.
Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure
Overexposure To The Sun
A pink or yellow bump on the white of the eye can indicate damage to the conjunctiva from too much sunlight exposure. They can expand and grow further in and eventually block your vision, Dr. Stalker explains. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses that offer full UV protection and cover your eyes completely.
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Change In Mental Status
This can be a difficult symptom to deal with because when we become confused we may not be able to respond with appropriate judgment. Its important that people who are usually around you are able to recognize the signs of changes in mental status: muddled thinking, changes in speech, unusual behavior and even simply reduced activity. There are many other possible causes for this symptom besides hypertension, including stroke or possibly an unreported head injury, so always seek medical attention if you experience changes in consciousness. Make sure that family members and caregivers know what to watch for, and know that any sign of quickly changing mental status is an emergency that requires immediate medical response.
Retinal Detachment Or Migraines
Seeing a few eye floaters usually isnt a sign of anything serious, but if you notice lightning flashes or darkness in your field of vision, this is a sign of an ocular emergency that warrants immediate medical attention.
These instantaneous flashes are different than those that are a precursor of a migraine. Sometimes people notice a 20-minute long flickering or sparkling light that expands in size and shrinks back down again, Dr. Stalker explains. That can be the start of an ocular migraine, which may be followed by a headache.
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What Causes High Eye Pressure
Factors that cause or are associated with ocular hypertension are virtually the same as the causes of glaucoma. These include:
Excessive aqueous production. The aqueous is a clear fluid that is produced in the eye by the ciliary body, a structure located behind the iris. The aqueous flows through the pupil and fills the anterior chamber of the eye, which is the space between the iris and the cornea.
If the aqueous forms faster in the eye than it can drain out, the pressure inside the eye increases, causing ocular hypertension.
Inadequate aqueous drainage. High eye pressure also can occur If the aqueous is produced at a normal rate, but drains too slowly from the eye.
Certain medications can have the side effect of causing ocular hypertension. Steroid medicines used to treat asthma and other conditions have been shown to increase the risk for high eye pressure. Be sure to tell your eye doctor if you are using steroid eye drops for any reason.
Eye trauma. An injury to the eye is another thing that can affect the balance of aqueous production and drainage, possibly leading to ocular hypertension. Sometimes this can occur months or years after the injury. During your routine eye exams, be sure to mention to your doctor if you have experienced any recent or past eyew injuries.
Also, race, age and family history play a role in your risk for ocular hypertension and glaucoma. Though anyone can develop high eye pressure, the following groups are generally at greater risk:
What Foods To Eat To Lower Eye Pressure
Certain fruits and vegetables with higher vitamin A and C content have been shown to reduce glaucoma risk as well. Some of the most helpful fruits and vegetables for healthy vision are: collard greens, cabbage, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery, carrots, peaches, radishes, green beans, and beets.
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How Can You Prevent Hypertensive Retinopathy
The best way to avoid hypertensive retinopathy is to manage your blood pressure. You can do this by eating a healthy, balanced diet, exercising regularly and taking the high blood pressure medications prescribed by your doctor. Its also essential to see your doctor routinely for follow-up care.
Whether you need eyeglasses or treatment for eye disease, Guilford Eye Center is here to assist. Call us at 292-4516, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We cater to patients around Greensboro, NC.
How Changes In The Veins Impact Blood Pressure
One common cause of high blood pressure is fat or oil buildup in the arteries due to excessive sugar and fat consumption. Its simple really: if the insides of your veins have a physical blockage, the pressure of the system can change. By how much can be a lot more complicated. But even very small veins in the back of your eyes can be affected by overall blood pressure.
To combat the effects of high blood pressure, doctors often prescribe hypertension medication.
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What Causes Pressure Behind The Eyes
Many people want to know what causes eye pressure. Aside from having a headache or a sinus infection, your eye pressure may be caused by a number of factors. Here are some of the most common:
- A scratch on your eye
Its important to rule out glaucoma if you experience regular eye pressure. See an eye doctor right away to have your eyes checked to determine the cause.
What Causes Hypertensive Retinopathy
Prolonged high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the main cause of HR. High blood pressure is a chronic problem in which the force of the blood against your arteries is too high.
The force is a result of the blood pumping out of the heart and into the arteries, as well as the force created as the heart rests between heartbeats.
When the blood moves through the body at a higher pressure, the tissue that makes up the arteries will begin to stretch and eventually become damaged. This leads to many problems over time.
HR generally occurs after your blood pressure has been consistently high over a prolonged period. Your blood pressure levels can be affected by:
- a lack of physical activity
- being overweight
- eating an unhealthy diet thats high in fat proteins, trans fats, sugary foods, and sodium
- heavy alcohol consumption
Additionally, the condition is more common in people of African descent, particularly Afro-Caribbean people, according to research from 2003. Women are also more likely to be affected by blood vessel damage than men.
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What Does Normal Pressure In Your Eyes Feel Like
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye pressure is measured by the amount of fluid in your eye. Its similar to measuring your blood pressure. Your eye contains a substance called vitreous humor, which looks and feels like jelly and is located in the back of your eye. Aqueous humor is a watery liquid that is also located in your eye, but its mostly in the front part of the eye in front of the iris and behind the cornea.
In a normal or healthy eye, there is a small amount of aqueous humor that always enters while an equal amount drains. Most of this liquid flows out of the eye through an area in front of the iris known as the drainage angle. This continuous flow ensure that you have a steady pressure in your eyes. So, what causes eye pressure to go up? An imbalance in this procedure can make you feel like you have too much or too little eye pressure in your eyes.
Normal eye pressure should feel comfortable. In other words, it should feel like nothing is wrong with your eyes. This indicates that the drainage angle is working properly and there are no issues. You can measure your eye pressure in millimeters of mercury or mm, similar to how a thermometer measures temperature. Normal eye pressure measures between 10 and 20 mm. Some people have high or low eye pressure with no other symptoms. Others experience vision loss or optic nerve damage.
Can High Blood Pressure Impact Your Vision
High blood pressure affects a great many Americans. For one thing, men suffer from it at higher rates than women , so your gender might play a factor in whether youre at risk. This risk shouldnt be ignored. In 2017, 500,000 people died with high blood pressure serving as a contributing cause.
Because it can be life-threatening, people do what they can to manage it. But one thing patients might not expect is the way it affects your eyes. Sometimes patients find that out during a routine eye exam, which isnt ideal. High blood pressure, medication, or diseases with high blood pressure playing a part can all impact eye health, and it helps to know the risks early.
Can An Eye Test Detect High Blood Pressure
25-02-2020 For Eyes
High blood pressure takes place when your blood exerts too much force against the area around your blood vessels. Anything above 140 over 90 mm Hg is considered high blood pressure, by most standards.
At the beginning of your eye exam, your optometrist may ask questions about your health, lifestyle, and family medical history. High blood pressure may come into the conversation. Dont be afraid to share this information, as it can help your eye doctor see if youre at risk for hypertension or other health issues.
While your eye doctor might ask you about this condition, you may wonder, How can high blood pressure affect my eyes, and can an eye test detect high blood pressure? Lets discuss.
Complications Of Hypertensive Retinopathy
People with HR are at risk of developing complications related to the retina. These include the following:
- Ischemic optic neuropathy, which occurs when high blood pressure blocks off normal blood flow in the eyes, damaging the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries images of what we see to the brain.
- Retinal artery occlusion, which occurs when the arteries that carry blood to the retina become blocked by blood clots. When this happens, the retina doesnt get enough oxygen or blood. This results in vision loss.
- Retinal vein occlusion, which occurs when the veins that carry blood away from the retina become blocked by blood clots.
- Nerve fiber layer ischemia, or damage to the nerve fibers, which may lead to cotton-wool spots, or fluffy white lesions on the retina.
- Malignant hypertension, which is a rare condition that causes blood pressure to increase suddenly, interfering with vision and causing sudden vision loss. This is a potentially life threatening condition.
People with HR are also at an increased risk of having a stroke or heart attack. One 2013 study of 2,907 people between the ages of 50 and 73 found that those with HR were more likely to have a stroke than people without the condition.
This was true even in people with blood pressure controlled by treatment. A
Effective treatment for HR involves controlling and lowering high blood pressure with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
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How Can Hypertension Affect Your Eyesight
We are aware of the many serious consequences of living with high blood pressure, or hypertension. Prolonged, untreated hypertension can negatively impact your heart and your kidneys, but how can hypertension affect your eyesight?
High blood pressure can lead to a condition known as hypertensive retinopathy and the damage can be very serious if not addressed.
The retina is a layer of tissue located at back of the eye and contains cells that are sensitive to light. These cells trigger nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed. When your blood pressure is too high, the walls of the retina may thicken, which restricts blood flow to the retina and limits its function, resulting in potentially permanent vision problems, including blindness.
A person with hypertensive retinopathy wouldnt typically display any symptoms until the condition has progressed. Possible signs may include:
- Reduced vision
- Bursting of a blood vessel
- Double vision accompanied by headaches
In most cases, an eye specialist can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy during an examination using an instrument called an opthalmoscope to examine the retina. Your doctor will look for signs of narrowing of blood vessels, spots on the retina, swelling or bleeding in the back of the eye.
How Does High Blood Pressure Affect The Eyes
Untreated hypertension can lead to a range of eye diseases. One of the conditions it can cause, for example, is hypertensive retinopathy, where the tiny arteries that supply blood to the retina are damaged. If blood pressure is not controlled, this can lead to more serious eye damage, including bleeding, blurred vision, and complete loss of vision.11
High blood pressure may also lead to the build-up of fluid under the retina, which can cause choroidopathy, a condition that can lead to distortion of vision or impaired vision due to scarring in the eye.11
Hypertension may also block blood flow and cause damage to the optic nerve. This is known as optic neuropathy and can result in the death of nerve cells in the eye, leading to bleeding within the eye or vision loss.11
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What To Do To Reduce The Impact Of High Blood Pressure On Your Eyes
If you have high blood pressure, your GP might recommend that you take antihypertensive medications to bring your blood pressure numbers down. There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can try that can lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of health problems, including heart disease and eye complications. These may help you avoid, delay, or reduce the need for antihypertensive therapy:13
Maintain a healthy BMI
Get regular exercise, at least 30 minutes most days of the week
Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy
Reduce salt intake
Limit alcohol consumption to moderate amounts
Cut back on caffeine
Reduce mental stress
It can also be useful to monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor periodically for health checks. Ultimately, a proactive approach to blood pressure management can help prevent many of the eye complications of hypertension, such as glaucoma. If you think your blood pressure may be high, its important to seek advice from your GP.
If youve been having any problems with your eyesight, book an appointment at your local Specsavers.
For more information on glaucoma causes, you can find it in our dedicated glaucoma causes resource.
Andy BrittonBSc MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc Dip TP
Andy graduated from Aston University in 1996 and has practiced in all areas, including university and hospital clinics. He has a strong Read more
Other Risk Factors For Glaucoma
Therefore, we look to other risk factors for glaucoma. Most important among these appear related to blood flow to the eye.
Evidence suggests that ocular perfusion pressure is a strong risk factor for glaucoma. Ocular perfusion pressure is the relationship between the eye pressure and the blood pressure.
If the blood pressure is low, especially if the eye pressure is elevated, blood has difficulty getting into the eye to supply oxygen and important nutrients, and to remove waste products.
However, even in individuals with normal eye pressure, their blood pressure may be low enough naturally, or as a result of treatment for their high blood pressure, to deprive the eye of adequate blood flow.
Normally, our bodies adapt to changes in blood pressure, body position, or other changes in order to maintain constant circulation to important areas such as our brain or our eyes. For some individuals, their bodies may lack the ability to adjust the circulation appropriately, so the tissue may not be properly nourished and may suffer damage over time.
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