High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause problems throughout the human body. Usually, high blood pressure is linked to strokes, heart disease, headaches, and a host of other systemic problems. But high blood pressure can cause harm to your eyes as well. This article will cover some of the ocular and visual effects of high blood pressure.
The heart generates amazing amounts of pressure to move the blood through the body. Arteries carry the blood, rich with oxygen from the lungs, throughout the entire body – all starting from the pressure created by the beating heart. The blood has to make its return trip to the heart and lungs and travels through the smallest vessels (capillaries) and then through the veins. Once back to the heart, the blood is pumped through the lungs, back to the heart, and then back out to the rest of the body. It’s when the pressure in the blood system is too high that problems can start. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, puts strain on the arteries, capillaries, and veins. If not treated, vessels can burst leading to strokes and hemorrhages.
The eye and high blood pressure
The eye receives its blood supply from the optic artery and a very dense network of capillaries. Capillaries are the most fragile of the blood vessels. If the blood pressure increases the capillaries can leak causing small hemorrhages in the retina. These small hemorrhages will usually resolve on their own, but if detected, raises the concerns for more serious eye issues from high blood pressure.
Throughout the retina, the arteries and veins cross over each other just like highways on a road map. If the pressure increases too high, the arteries can put pressure on a vein as it crosses over it, impeding the flow of blood. The vein walls are thin and delicate and the pressure that increases from the artery pushing on it can cause a larger hemorrhage in the retina. Depending on where the hemorrhage occurs, a sector of the retina may be affected, or in some cases, the entire retina may be affected. Treatments vary depending on the severity of the hemorrhage and must be closely monitored by your eye doctor.
What can you do to prevent eye complications from high blood pressure?
The answer to this question is simple. Follow your doctor’s orders to control your high blood pressure. Treatment may include medication, diet changes, weight loss, and exercise. There are plenty of reasons to watch your blood pressure. Add your vision to the list.