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Hypertensive Retinopathy

Hypertensive Retinopathy

When a person has high blood pressure damage to the vessel-rich retina can occur. Most people who work hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle tend to focus on their bellies their legs or their arms. Little do people realize how interconnected their bodies are right down to the nervous and circulatory systems. Bad living habits do not only affect the heart lungs and liver – in truth eyes suffer greatly if they do not receive proper nutrients and care. One such example of this is hypertensive retinopathy.

Hypertension is the medical term for an abnormally high blood pressure and is known as the “silent killer”. Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as blood flows through the body. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder and over time can damage blood vessels throughout your body. Blood vessel damage occurs in the form of thickened and hardened arteries which further reduces blood flow. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to stroke heart attack heart failure or kidney failure.

High blood pressure/hypertension results from:

  • renal disease
  • obesity
  • stress
  • a fatty diet
  • high cholesterol
  • a sedentary lifestyle
  • genetic predisposition (strong family history of hypertension)

Retinal changes can also accompany high blood pressure. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eyeball; its main purpose is to send visual impulses through the optic nerve to the brain. When a person has high blood pressure damage to the vessel-rich retina can occur. Generally the higher the pressure and the longer the patient has the elevated levels the worse the situation becomes. Signs of hypertensive retinopathy may include narrowing of the vessels in the retina (arteriosclerosis) retinal hemorrhages and swelling of the retinal tissue (ischemia). Patients with swelling of the optic nerve may have malignant hypertension a severe form of high blood pressure. Damage to the retina can cause anything from minor visual problems to complete loss of vision. However most patients with hypertension are nearly always visually asymptomatic. In a lot of cases patients find out about their condition only after their eye doctor conducts a thorough eye exam.

The only treatment for hypertensive retinopathy is to control the high blood pressure. This can be attained by:

  • getting regular exercise
  • maintaining a proper body weight
  • eating a healthy diet
  • seeing your doctor regularly for a yearly check-up
  • medication (anti-hypertensive drugs)

A lot of people do not have adequate blood pressure control and they do not realize the dangers it poses to their entire body. Lowering blood pressure can stop ongoing damage to the body including the retina.

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