How High Blood Pressure Could Be Ruining Your Eyesight

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with high blood pressure, you’re probably aware of the damage the condition can do. While hypertension doesn’t come with any symptoms, it’s still doing severe damage to your body over time. Essentially, the force of your blood is too high, causing strain to the walls of your arteries. This eventually can lead to heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke.

It’s not just your heart that’s taking serious abuse with high blood pressure, though. When left untreated, it’s possible to develop eye disease. Here’s what you should know.

High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in your retina

Doctor checking blood pressure

Doctor checking blood pressure | iStock.com

The tiny blood vessels in your eyes are vulnerable to damage just like the rest of your body — and high blood pressure can do serious damage here. The American Heart Association notes when there’s less blood flow to the retina, which is known as hypertensive retinopathy, this can cause “blurred vision or a complete loss of sight.” If you have diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re at particular risk of this occurring. If this is left untreated, the damage can be serious and irreversible.

Hypertensive retinopathy isn’t the only eye damage you should be concerned about with high blood pressure, either. You can also develop fluid underneath the retina which can further distort your vision and result in eye scarring. In severe cases, hypertension can also leave you with temporary or permanent vision loss if blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve.

Are there symptoms of eye damage from hypertension?

Unfortunately, both high blood pressure and hypertensive eye damage don’t come with many symptoms. Healthline says, however, that when the damage progresses, you may experience a few worrying signs. It’s possible to experience reduced vision, swelling of the eyes, blood vessels bursting, or double vision that often leads to a headache.

Pay particular attention to any vision changes you may have if you know your blood pressure is above normal levels. You should also keep in mind that there are additional risk factors for developing these eye issues. If you’ve had high blood pressure for a long time or also have heart disease, high cholesterol, or diabetes, you may be at a higher risk. Additionally, smoking, living an unhealthy lifestyle, drinking a lot of alcohol, and being overweight will also raise the odds.

How to prevent hypertensive retinopathy

Checking eyesight

Checking eyesight in a clinic | Denis_prof/iStock/Getty Images

The key to preventing hypertensive retinopathy (or any other vision problems associated with high blood pressure) is to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Here are some additional tips to make sure your vision never falters.

Visit an eye doctor regularly: When the disease advances, you may experience symptoms — but for most people with hypertensive retinopathy, an eye doctor is the first one to clue them in on the damage. WebMD notes an eye doctor will utilize an instrument to project light into the back of your eyeball and see if your retina has sustained any injury. If they see narrowing blood vessels, swelling, or bleeding, they’ll be able to tell you early on that something is amiss.

Take your blood pressure medications as prescribed: If you have high blood pressure you’ve been unable to bring down through lifestyle changes, there’s a good chance your doctor has prescribed medication to help. It’s vital for your eyes, heart, kidneys, and other organs that you take it as directed. Missed doses could mean additional damage to your retina, which is particularly bad news if you’re already experiencing eye problems.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Medication can be life-saving, but that’s not all you should be doing for your high blood pressure. Daily moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, plenty of healthy foods, and less alcohol consumption can all work to your advantage.

You may want to add foods that are good for your eyes into your diet, too. Red peppers, sunflower seeds, leafy greens, salmon, sweet potatoes, and eggs are all recommendations from WebMD.

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