Doctor taking patient's blood pressure

May 10, 2016

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Eyes?

High blood pressure alone typically will not impact a person's vision. However, high blood pressure over an extended period of time 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. It can be a risk factor in the progression of eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

Blood vessels carry blood not only to your heart but also to your eyes. Due to their large demand for oxygen, tiny blood vessels in the retinas can be damaged easily by high blood pressure. During an eye exam, your doctor checks for changes in the retina by directly viewing the blood vessels in the retina. A healthy retina is essential for good vision.

High blood pressure also is linked to choroidopathy. This occurs when there is fluid buildup under the retina. The most common side effect of choroidopathy is distorted vision. Another vision condition related to high blood pressure is optic neuropathy, or nerve damage, which occurs when blood flow is blocked. Nerve damage can kill nerve cells in your eyes, resulting in bleeding in the eye or vision loss.

To prevent hypertensive retinopathy and other serious eye conditions, schedule regular dilated eye exams with your eye doctor. Also, keep your blood pressure in control by maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly and taking your blood pressure medications, as prescribed.

Wolfe Eye Clinic has five ophthalmologists who specialize in retina disease diagnosis and treatment. They see patient's in Wolfe Eye Clinic's 10 main offices throughout Iowa, including Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo and Cedar Falls.