The Centers for Disease Control and Protection estimate that about 75 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can affect just about all of your bodily systems and organs, including your eyes. For example, high blood pressure can cause hypertensive retinopathy, which is defined as retinal vascular damage that can affect a person's vision.
Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand the risks of having high blood pressure and are left untreated, and many people also do not know a lot about hypertensive retinopathy. Take a look at common questions regarding hypertensive retinopathy.
What Are the Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy?
Hypertensive retinopathy can come along with other symptoms, but most people assume the symptoms to be relative to typical vision problems. Therefore, without proper examination from a qualified professional, the condition can go undiagnosed. The most common symptoms associated with hypertensive retinopathy include things like the following:
- Reduced visual perception or blurry vision
- Swelling of the eyes
- Double vision experiences
- Burst blood vessels or redness in the eyes
In situations when someone has an extreme spike in their blood pressure, it can cause immediate changes in vision. Therefore, if you have high blood pressure and experience a sudden change in your vision, especially if the change is accompanied by a headache or chest pain, it is important to seek emergency medical attention.
How Is Hypertensive Retinopathy Diagnosed?
A simple visit to your eye doctor can lead to a diagnosis of hypertensive retinopathy. If you have high blood pressure and you know it, make sure you mention this to the doctor so they can do the proper tests and examinations to determine if you are at risk or are already showing signs of the condition. The eye doctor can tell that you have hypertensive retinopathy from the following signs:
- The retina's blood vessel walls may be thicker
- The blood vessels themselves may look thinner in appearance
- There appears to be fluid leaking from the blood vessels
The doctor may use a test referred to as fluorescein angiography, which involves introducing dye into the bloodstream that will show up under certain lighting conditions in the eye. Dye will be injected into your veins, and a special camera will be used to capture imagery of the dye as it moves through the blood vessels in your eyes. The results can determine if hypertensive retinopathy is present.
Can Hypertensive Retinopathy Be Cured?
Hypertensive retinopathy is mostly treated by making sure the patient's blood pressure levels are treated in a way that will keep them stable. If your eye doctor discovers hypertensive retinopathy and you have not been seeing a doctor for high blood pressure, they will likely refer you to your family physician to obtain the proper treatment. Managing high blood pressure can involve:
- Taking prescription medications
- Implementing a good plan for physical activity
- Changing your diet and reducing sodium intake
- Making changes to stress levels
- Losing weight if you are overweight
If your high blood pressure is managed properly, the damage that has been caused to the retinal blood vessels can slowly heal over time in some patients. However, it is not uncommon for severe hypertensive retinopathy to create long-term damages to the health of the eyes and to the vision.
Hypertensive retinopathy is a condition that your eye doctor can help you diagnose and keep tabs on as a regular patient. The eyes can be a window to other health problems happening inside the body, including windows to reveal problems with high blood pressure. Reach out to us at Carolina Cataract & Laser Center, P.A. for an appointment for an eye exam if you have high blood pressure.