Hypertensive retinopathy: More serious (and common) than you may think
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Brian

Published on July 26, 2021, 1:57 am

Hypertensive retinopathy: More serious (and common) than you may think

Changes in your blood pressure levels don’t just show effects on your kidney or heart health. High blood pressure can hurt the tiny delicate blood vessels in your retina causing mild to severe damage to your vision.

Thus, keeping your blood pressure under control is good for your eye health as well. If you don’t, you may have to deal with a condition called hypertensive retinopathy and sudden vision loss. Read further to know what causes this problem and how to prevent it.


What is Hypertensive Retinopathy?

Hypertensive retinopathy is one of the complications of high blood pressure that involves damage to the retina.

When your blood pressure is high, your arteries become hard leading to the narrowing of blood vessels. This restricts blood flow to the retina and causes damage to its cells. In some cases, the retina may even swell.

Over time, this problem could destroy the retinal blood vessels. It will hinder the functions of the retina and cause vision problems.

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Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy

In the initial stages of hypertensive retinopathy, the patient may show no signs of this problem at all. But, when the condition progresses extensively, you will experience the following symptoms:

  • Loss of vision
  • Eye swelling
  • Bursting of a blood vessel in the eye
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Cloudy vision

Mild to moderate hypertensive retinopathy could only be discovered during an eye exam. So, if you have high blood pressure, make sure you get regular eye exams and take early measures to control this problem.

If you live in Bury or any nearby area, you can get your eye test done by the best opticians in Bury at our Specscart store. Book an online appointment and get an eye test at your convenience.


What causes Hypertensive Retinopathy?

High blood pressure or hypertension is the biggest trigger behind hypertensive retinopathy. If your blood pressure has been consistently high for quite some time, you may develop this condition.

Thus, the causes of hypertensive retinopathy are the same as what affects your blood pressure levels. For instance:

  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Taking too much salt in your food
  • High-stress lifestyle
  • High alcohol intake

Hypertension could be an inherited problem that runs in your family. Older people are at a higher risk of developing this problem and thus are more likely to develop hypertensive retinopathy.

If you or someone in your family has high blood pressure, schedule regular eye exams to detect the development of this problem. You may come to us to get a free eye test in the UK. Our new store in Bury has special eye test labs with advanced tools and equipment to detect rare and severe eye conditions.


Risk Factors for Hypertensive Retinopathy

The following health conditions put you at a higher risk of developing hypertensive retinopathy.

  • High blood pressure levels for a prolonged time
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • An unhealthy diet high in trans fats, sugary foods and fat proteins


Diagnosing Hypertensive Retinopathy

An eye care professional or optometrist can diagnose this problem during a comprehensive eye exam. They would use an ophthalmoscope to examine the back of your eye. The doctor would look for the following signs to diagnose hypertensive retinopathy:

  • Narrowing of retinal blood vessels
  • Fluffy white patches on the retina
  • Swelling and thickening of the macula
  • Bleeding in the back of the eye

In some rare cases, a test called fluorescein angiography will be conducted to check the blood supply to the retina. This includes taking snaps of the eye before and after a fluorescein dye is injected into the body.

If your hypertensive retinopathy gets to a critical stage, you’ll experience symptoms such as dim vision or eyesight loss. In this case, your eye doctor will provide you with your eye prescription so that you can buy glasses online or from a local store to get your vision back.


Hypertensive Retinopathy vs Diabetic Retinopathy

Although both of these vision-related problems have similar features, both of them affect the retina in different ways. Hypertensive retinopathy usually has few cotton wool or white spots on the retina as compared to diabetic retinopathy.

However, the difference is trivial to the patient and needs close inspection of the retina to identify the problem. But, both of these conditions can be managed by controlling your blood pressure levels.


Treating Hypertensive Retinopathy

The only way to control this condition is by controlling your blood pressure. This can be achieved by introducing some lifestyle changes such as:

  • Quit smoking
  • Losing weight
  • Exercise daily
  • Making changes in your diet
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Limiting caffeine intake

All these steps would prove to be fruitful when you are trying to control your blood pressure. Along with these healthy lifestyle changes, your doctor may also recommend blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers, diuretics or ACE inhibitors.

If you experience vision loss from hypertensive retinopathy, then you would need some kind of vision correction such as prescription glasses or contacts to make up for your low visual acuity.

If you have this condition, don’t let it get to a serious stage. If you do, it will cause irreversible damage to your retina and may even result in complete vision loss. Tell about the changes in your vision to your primary doctor so they can work with your eye doctor and chalk out a treatment plan for you.

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