Why Your Eye Doctor Cares about Your Blood Pressure
- Posted on: Dec 15 2018
High blood pressure may sound like a commonly diagnosed condition because we see commercials for blood pressure medications on television and in magazines. According to studies, far more people are living with elevated blood pressure than is ideal. The reasons could be simple. One, we don’t tend to see the doctor unless we experience troubling symptoms. Two, high blood pressure can progress for years without any indication of a problem.
High Blood Pressure and Your Eyes
The truth is, when the pressure of blood flow from the heart is too great, the blood vessels throughout the body are impacted. Research has suggested that high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage, heart problems, and even potentially serious eye disease. This is why your eye doctor cares about your blood pressure, and why you should, too.
The blood vessels in the eye are tiny and relatively fragile. Increased blood pressure can progressively damage the vessels in and around the retina, which sits at the very back of the eye near the optic nerve. When the retina becomes damaged by high blood pressure, the term we use is hypertensive retinopathy. Ideally, we’d like to use this term to describe very subtle signs of ocular damage. When we identify the physical signs of hypertensive retinopathy, we have a better chance at preserving vision.
Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy
An eye doctor uses a lighted instrument during comprehensive dilated eye exams to observe the nerves, blood vessels, and structures at the back of the eye. This instrument shows the condition of blood vessels including narrowing and micro-hemorrhages caused by tiny leaks in vessels. Swelling in the central part of the retina, called macular edema, may also indicate retinal damage, as may swelling around the optic nerve. If such symptoms are found, a patient may be referred to a retinal specialist for further testing. This is in the ideal scenario.
If high blood pressure continues for years, as it can if annual checkups are not obtained, the first signs of hypertensive retinopathy may indicate irreparable retinal damage. Sudden loss of vision is a critical symptom that requires immediate medical attention. Patients who experience cloudy or double vision should also not postpone a medical eye exam.
Retinal damage is a serious problem, but hypertensive retinopathy can be controlled with the ongoing medical management of blood pressure. Learn more about your eyes and your risk for eye disease by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam in our Canfield, North Canton, or Alliance office.
Posted in: Ohio Eye Care