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High blood pressure and eye disease

In addition to causing heart and kidney problems, untreated high blood pressure can also affect your eyesight and cause eye disease. Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus. This eye disease is known as hypertensive retinopathy. The damage can be serious if hypertension is not treated.

What are the symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy?

Most often a person will not experience symptoms and the retinopathy is found on routine eye examination.

Symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy may include:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems

How is hypertensive retinopathy diagnosed?

An eye care professional can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy. The professional will use an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that projects light, to examine the back of your eyeball. Signs of retinopathy include:

  • Narrowing of blood vessels
  • Fluid oozing from the blood vessels
  • Spots on the retina known as “cotton wool” spots and exudates
  • Swelling of the macula and optic disc
  • Areas of haemorrhage

How is hypertensive retinopathy treated?

The best way to treat changes to the eye such as hypertensive retinopathy is to adequately control your blood pressure.

Can hypertensive retinopathy be prevented?

To prevent hypertensive retinopathy, keep your blood pressure in control by changing your diet, exercising more and taking your high blood pressure medications as prescribed. In addition, see your doctor on a regular basis for follow-up care.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 21, 2012

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