High blood pressure if persists for long periods can lead to hypertension, which is known to cause a variety of debilitating side effects or symptoms in the life of the patient. It can also lead to a number of related ailments which can affect various organs of the body. The eyes are one of the organs that are most susceptible to this kind of spike in the body’s blood pressure. Let us learn more about the connection between the two.
Retina: When high blood pressure goes untreated for a prolonged period, it can easily start to affect the blood vessels that are present in the retina. The retina is the third or the innermost layer of the eye which is sensitive towards light. This layer transforms light into nerve signals that are then sent to the brain for interpretation. When your blood pressure is too high, the retina’s blood vessel walls may thicken. This may cause your blood vessels to become narrow, which then restricts blood from reaching the retina. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels, limit the retina’s function, and put pressure on the optic nerve, causing vision problems. This condition is called hypertensive retinopathy (HR).
In early stages: this stage may go unnoticed as there may not be much symptoms. Symptoms usually appear when the disease is progressed extensively. Symptoms include:
a. Reduced vision
c. Bursting of a blood vessel
d. Double vision etc.
It may cause vision threatening complications like Ischaemic optic neuropathy (when blood flow in eye is blocked), Retinal artery occlusion ( when the arteries that carry blood to the retina become blocked by blood clots) and Retinal vein occlusion (if veins that carry blood away from the retina become blocked by blood clots). This blockage causes retinal damage and vision loss.
The diagnosis of the condition is usually done by an ophthalmologist who will use an ophthalmoscope in order to project light towards the specific part of the eye so that the back of the eyeballs can be examined. The signs that the doctor will look for during the examination include narrowing of the blood vessels of retina, inflammation of the macula which is the central portion of the retina, and bleeding in the back of the eye. Also, the doctor will check for cotton wool spots and hard exudates in the retina which are suggestive of decreased blood supply to retina.
The best and only way of treating this condition is by keeping one’s blood pressure in control with the help of medication prescribed by the doctor and life style modification Medical treatment can only treat the acute changes of hypertension from vasospasm and vascular leakage. There is no treatment for arteriosclerotic changes of chronic hypertension.
There are many ways of preventing the onset of this disease, including losing weight so that there is less pressure on the body. Also, one must stick to a healthy diet and exercise regularly after taking recommendations on the appropriate exercises from the doctor. Additionally, it is also important to see a doctor on a regular basis so that there is constant monitoring and regulation of the medicines and the blood pressure.