Hypertension, a general cardiovascular disease, can have repercussions throughout the body, including the eye. “Hypertension can predispose you to having a variety of eye problems,” says Dr. Stewart Shofner. Along with causing heart and kidney issues, people with untreated high blood pressure may experience changes in their vision or develop eye disease known as hypertensive retinopathy. Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus. The damage can be serious if it is not treated.
What are the Symptoms?
Current research suggests that hypertensive retinopathy disease may be spotted early through a regular eye exam because symptoms of the condition may be spotted in the eyes sooner than they are spotted in the body. However, some patients might experience symptoms such as: headaches, tension and vision changes.
How Is Hypertensive Retinopathy Diagnosed?
Optometrists or ophthalmologists can detect early signs of heart disease during preventive eye exams. Through careful examination of the retina, your eye doctor can view small changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eye, which can indicate more serious systemic disease. Using an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that projects light to examine the back of the eyeball, the doctor will look for signs of retinopathy that include:
- Narrowing of blood vessels
- Spots on the retina known as cotton wool spots and exudates
- Bleeding in the back of the eye
- Swelling of the macula and optic nerve
How to Prevent Hypertensive Retinopathy?
To prevent hypertensive retinopathy, it’s important to keep your blood pressure under control by reaching and maintaining your optimal weight, sticking with a diet recommended by your physician, regular exercise, and taking appropriate medications as prescribed by your physician. Dr. Shofner recommends, “Check in with your doctor regularly for follow-up care and be sure to discuss high blood pressure with your vision care provider.”
If you have experienced vision changes or if it’s been more than a year since your last eye exam, we encourage you to contact Shofner Vision Center to schedule an appointment. Visit us online or call (615) 340-4733 today.