The retina is the sensory tissue located behind the eye that translates nerve signals into a “language” the brain can understand. High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause blood vessels within the retina to condense and narrow. When this occurs, blood flow is restricted, resulting in retinal swelling.
Left untreated, hypertension can damage the blood vessels inside the retina, impeding its functionality and placing undue strain on the optic nerve. Vision problems related to this condition are what we refer to as hypertensive retinopathy (HR).
Symptoms of advanced hypertensive retinopathy include:
- Impaired vision
- Ocular inflammation and swelling
- Broken blood vessels
- Chronic Headaches
- Blurred vision and/or diplopia (double vision)
What you can do:
Lifestyle changes conducive to normalizing blood pressure, in conjunction with physician-prescribed diuretics or angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have proven to be an effective treatment for HR.
In addition to prescription medication, the following steps can aid in managing your hypertension:
- Maintain a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Consult with your healthcare practitioner about an exercise regimen
- Put the salt shaker down
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol
- If you smoke, stop
As always, visit your eye doctor regularly, and report any sudden changes in vision or elevation in blood pressure.