Do you know that having high blood pressure can have an effect on your eyes? Indeed, high blood pressure can actually damage your retina. This eye disease is called hypertensive retinopathy.
Risk Factors of Hypertensive Retinopathy
If you have hypertension, there is a chance that it can damage the blood vessels in your retina. This eye disease can get more severe if the period of time that you suffer from high blood pressure is extended.
This eye disease will be further exacerbated if you smoke, have high levels of cholesterol, or are diabetic.
Those suffering from malignant hypertension may also be at risk of this eye disease. Malignant hypertension involved the sudden spike of blood pressure. When this happens, your retina may be severely affected.
In addition, this eye disease may occur because of the following conditions:
1. Ischemic optic neuropathy – this results in the damage of the nerves in the eye because of the poor circulation of blood in the area.
2. Retinal artery occlusion – this happens when the supply of blood to the retina is blocked because of an obstruction in the arteries.
3. Retinal vein occlusion – this happens when the blood being carried out of the retina is blocked because of an impasse in the veins.
Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy
The following symptoms may characterize this eye disease:
1. Dimming of vision
2. Double vision
4. Sudden loss of vision
5. Visual disturbances
Take note that the symptoms may not manifest itself during the early stage of this eye disease.
To be more specific about it, the degree of damage to the retina is usually graded on a scale ranging from 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest. At the lowest grade, or grade 1, symptoms may not be felt yet. As it graduates from one grade to the next, however, a lot of changes may occur with the blood vessels. Some may be leaking or there may be swelling in other parts of the retina. By the time it reaches the highest grade, or grade 4, hypertensive retinopathy may result in the swelling of the optic nerve and of the macula, which is the visual center of the retina. This swelling may in turn lead to a decline in your vision.
Diagnosing Hypertensive Retinopathy
Your optometrist may use an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that will allow him to observe the narrowing of the blood vessels. The instrument will also enable him to check for signs that fluid has leaked from the blood vessels.
In addition to this, your eye doctor may also opt to use fluorescein angiography. This will also allow him to conduct a comprehensive examination of the blood vessels in your eyes.
Treating Hypertensive Retinopathy
The only way to cure this disease is by controlling your high blood pressure. Usually, the retina will be able to recover once the blood pressure is stabilized and normalized. Those with grade 4 retinopathy, however, may get permanent damage to the optic nerve.
The best way to avoid hypertensive retinopathy is by regular eye examination. If signs are found then aggressive blood pressure management will usually avoid serious consequences.
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