One in three Americans have High Blood Pressure. We all know Hypertension is a leading risk factor for developing heart disease and stroke, but did you know that it puts you at an increased risk of losing your vision? Hypertension is a risk factor in several ocular diseases and is downright responsible for some others.
High blood pressure in the arteries supplying your retina and optic nerve with blood can cause a decreased in blood flow to these tissues or damage the arteries themselves, contributing to some of the following common conditions:
-Non-Arteritic Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION): reduced blood flow to the optic nerve causes optic nerve swelling and irreversible damage
-Central and Branch Retinal Vein Occlusions (CRVO)(BRVO): a blood clot forms in a vein, preventing blood from draining from the retina. Severe retinal damage can result
-Central and Branch Retinal Artery Occlusions (CRAO)(BRAO): a blood clot forms in an artery, preventing the retina from receiving oxygen. This causes permanent damage to the retina within a few hours, often leading to total or partial blindness.
-Retinal Artery Macroaneurysms (RAM): Retinal arteries under the strain of increased blood pressure develop aneurysms, which eventually burst and leak blood and lipid into the retina
-Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD): There is an association between hypertension and progressive ARMD.
-Stroke: A stroke can cause permanent damage to the areas of the brain that process visual information, causing partial or total vision loss.
-Hypertensive Retinopathy: This is the most commonly encountered ocular disease associated with Hypertension. As the blood pressure increases, retinal arteries begin to leak blood and lipid into the retina, causing retinal swelling and potential vision loss.
Lowering your blood pressure is good not just for your eyes, but for your entire body. If you aren’t have regular checkups with your Primary Care Physician, make it a habit. You should also frequently monitor your blood pressure at home and alert your doctor if you notice a change. Lowering blood pressure is the only way to reduce your risk of these events happening.
Those with Hypertension should have a dilated eye exam every year so that your optometrist can look for these and many other conditions. You may be having an issue that you are not yet aware of, so get it checked out!
Dr. Canaan Montgomery is an Optometrist in Paducah KY. His professional interests include ocular disease, pediatric eye care, and vision therapy.