High Blood Pressure and Eye Disease: Does BP damage eyes?

Key Takeaways:

1. Chronic high blood pressure poses a significant risk to ocular health, potentially leading to eye diseases.

2. Long-term uncontrolled hypertension can result in eye conditions such as retinopathy, choroidopathy, and optic neuropathy, each affecting vision differently.

3. Preventing eye damage due to hypertension involves adopting lifestyle changes, including a DASH diet, moderation of alcohol intake, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, and stress reduction. Early detection and quick medical attention are crucial in managing hypertension and preserving vision.

Introduction

Persistent hypertension poses a threat to vital organs. It not only affects the heart and kidneys but also the eyes. The eyes are particularly susceptible to damage from prolonged high blood pressure.

Today, we will explore the connection between long-term high blood pressure and eye disease. Understanding this association empowers you to address emerging issues swiftly, minimize potential complications, and preserve your ocular health.

The connection between high blood pressure and eye disease

The tiny blood vessels in your eyes are crucial to supplying oxygen and nutrients. When you have chronic high blood pressure, these delicate arteries can suffer damage, resulting in tiny tears. This damage allows LDL cholesterol to deposit in these small cracks, forming plaque.

As plaque builds up over time, the arteries start narrowing. This reduces the blood supply to the eyes, leading to potential harm. Insufficient blood flow can damage the eye cells, resulting in tissue death or injury. Hence, high BP in the eyes can lead to long-term damage.

Blood pressure symptoms in eyes

Long-term high blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the eyes. This damage may lead to the development of the following high blood pressure eye symptoms.

1. Retinopathy→

hypertensive retinopathy in the eye

Retinopathy is a medical term used to describe damage to the retina. The retina is present at the back of your eye. It acts as a bridge between the light that enters the eyes and the images you see. The retina converts light into electrical signals and sends them to the brain.

Having long-term uncontrolled hypertension causes damage to the blood vessels carrying blood to the retina. The retina is a tissue that has high oxygen demand. Hence, a lack of adequate blood supply causes cell damage or even death. It may lead to blurred vision or total loss of sight.

Managing your blood pressure is the only way to treat and control hypertensive retinopathy.

2. Choroidopathy →

Choroidopathy refers to a medical condition involving dysfunction of the choroid. The choroid is a layer of the eye between the retina and sclera (the sclera is the supporting wall of the eyes). It brims with blood vessels carrying nutrients and oxygen to the eyes.

Long-term hypertension damages choroidal arteries, leading to fluid buildup beneath the retina. This condition can cause distorted vision and, in some cases, scarring that may impair sight. Hypertensive choroidopathy is mainly present in younger individuals.

Hypertensive Choroidopathy and neuropathy in the eyes
Image credit: Cheung, C.Y., Biousse, V., Keane, P.A. et al. Hypertensive eye disease. Nat Rev Dis Primers8, 14 (2022).

3. Optic Neuropathy→

Optic neuropathy refers to damage or dysfunction of the optic nerve, often resulting in visual impairment or loss.

When light enters your eyes, the retina transforms it into electrical signals. These signals then go to the brain through the optic nerves. The brain translates these electrical signals into the images you perceive.

Like other body tissues, nerves require a consistent blood supply for proper functioning. Uncontrolled hypertension damages the arteries supplying blood to the optic nerves, leading to a deprivation of oxygen and nutrients. This causes damage or death to the optic nerves.

Optic neuropathy can cause temporary or permanent damage to your eyes. It can affect your central vision, side (peripheral) vision, or both.

Preventing Eye Damage Because of Hypertension:

The best way to avoid eye damage is to control your blood pressure by taking your meds on time, following your doctor's advice, and making the following lifestyle changes.

  1. Have a DASH diet: A DASH diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet promotes the consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. The DASH diet promotes a higher intake of health-promoting nutrients like potassium, calcium, magnesium, vegetable protein, and fibre while reducing refined carbohydrates and saturated fats.
  2. Alcohol Moderation: When you consume alcohol, your blood pressure rises. Therefore, you should stay away from it. And if you drink, do so in moderation, i.e., less than two drinks/day for men and less than one drink/day for women.
  3. Exercise more: You can control high blood pressure, manage weight, strengthen your heart, and reduce stress by engaging in daily physical activity. Perform at least 150 minutes of medium-intensity or 75 minutes of robust aerobic exercise each week.
  4. Avoid smoking or second-hand smoke: As a result of smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke, plaque can build up in the arteries, causing blood pressure to rise.
  5. Minimize stress: Having chronic stress can increase your blood pressure. Hence, it would be beneficial to try minimizing stressful situations and learning stress-relieving tactics like yoga and meditation.
A stress-free man
Image by Freepik

Conclusion:

If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure for an extended period, it can significantly increase your risk of losing sight. Consider adopting the lifestyle changes mentioned earlier if you've been diagnosed with hypertension. These changes may involve adjusting your diet, exercising regularly, and adhering to prescribed medications.

Pay close attention to any signs of vision impairment. If you experience blurred or distorted vision, it's crucial to consult with your doctor promptly. Taking immediate action can help manage hypertension effectively and prevent potential complications, ensuring the protection of your vision.

Tracking is vital to managing hypertension and preventing its complications.

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With Aware, you can track your daily BP reading and get an instant analysis that tells you whether your readings are in the normal range.With Aware, you always remain informed.

Download the Aware app now for effortless BP tracking.

About the author: 

Lucky Mehtani
, B. Pharm, merges his healthcare expertise with a passion for writing to enhance India's heart health. Through insightful blogs, he provides well-researched information on managing Diabetes, Hypertension, and High Cholesterol, aiming to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
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