Your eyes have many tiny blood vessels. High-blood pressure can cause damage by exerting too much force on these delicate structures. Left untreated, high-blood pressure, or “hypertension,” can lead to a lot of many other dangerous health implications.
High blood pressure will damage the small, delicate tubes that supply blood to your retina. Since a hypertensive body is causing a lot of strain on the circulatory system and the various organ systems, it’s important to monitor any of the long-term complications in the blood vessels and nerves.
Over time, hypertension can develop into other health complications:
- Heart attacks
- Irregular heartbeat
- Kidney damage or failure
- Blood clots
- Hardening of the arteries
- Degradation of cognitive functions
This long-term damage to the eyes’ blood vessels can lead to blocked blood flow to the retina, called “retinopathy.” The retina acts like a water funnel, catching all the stuff coming through your pupils. This water funnel receives and converts all the light signals and then transmits them to the brain through the “garden hose” of the optic nerve. So, no blood flow means you can’t collect as much water as you’d like.
Without blood flow, your body do try to repair itself. It will try growing new blood vessels. Without the normal blood flow, these new blood vessels are less healthy or effective. Sometimes they’ll leak or rupture, which can leave damaging scar tissue.
A leak or rupture can cause fluid to build up behind the retina, affecting the retina’s performance. This fluid build-up, also called “choroidopathy,” will act like pinching the bottom-end of the water funnel. This “pinching” prevents the retina from effectively sending light signals to the brain.
Optic nerve damage is also possible. If your eyes can’t grow strong, stable blood vessels, there’s reduced blood flow in the surrounding tissues. This is what can kill the nerve cells in the eyes. This would be like “stepping on the garden hose.”
Our licensed eye doctors’ <<comprehensive yearly eye exam>> use a variety of methods to better evaluate patients’ overall eye health:
- Visual acuity test
- Slit lamp examination
- Retinal exam with pupil dilation
What Our High Blood Pressure Eye Exam is Looking For
There are numerous health factors covered during our hypertensive eye exam.
- Narrowness of blood vessels
- Any fluid leaking from the blood vessels
- Thickening of blood vessel wall
- Swelling of the macula and optic nerve
- Blood in the eyes’ normally clear vitreous humor
The dilation process is not painful. We administer drops to the eyes, which take 15 to 30 minutes to open up the pupils. Then, our eye doctors can perform a thorough examination of the retina and optic nerve. Side effects include sensitivity to light and blurred vision at close distances. Pupil dilation lasts for three to four hours.
Hypertension Treatment Options
It’s important to first lower high blood pressure. This reduces the strain on the blood vessels, the retina, and the optic nerve.
Cataracts surgery is the only real way to treat the progressive eye disease. Cataracts surgery is a safe, painless procedure where the degraded, cloudy lenses are replaced with artificial lenses.
Why Is a Hypertensive Retinopathy Exam So Important?
Eye and vision problems do not have obvious symptoms or signs but can be easily diagnosed by a licensed optometrist. By detecting eye and vision problems early, we can provide preventative treatment options and—in many cases—restore or prevent vision loss.