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Eye Symptoms of High Blood Pressure


Your eyes are among the most important of your senses. Among all the senses, it is the one that most people would hate to lose the most. One of the most damaging high blood pressure side effects is eye damage. As your blood pressure increases so does the danger that you will suffer damage to your eyes.

High blood pressure can damage the eyes. In the most extreme cases, it can even lead to blindness. Unfortunately, there are not always eye symptoms of high blood pressure. But, oftentimes, there are symptoms. The bad thing is that by the time many of these symptoms appear, significant damage has already occurred.

Those who suffer with hypertension, in general, often don't have any overt signs of high blood pressure. And usually people with the condition don't find out they have this condition until they have been to a doctor and had their blood pressure checked.  That is why they call hypertension the silent killer.

When you leave hypertension untreated, it not only affects your kidneys and heart, but it can affect your eyesight as well.  If you experience some of the following eye symptoms of high blood pressure it is time to speak with your doctor.

Hypertensive Retinopathy

Experiencing eye symptoms of high blood pressure can mean that you have hypertensive retinopathy.  Damage from these eye symptoms of high blood pressure can be serious if the condition is left untreated.  Many times you won't experience any eye symptoms of high blood pressure, and the condition is usually detected when you have a routine eye exam.

Another problem that can occur is that the tiny capillaries in the eyes begin to thicken. As they thicken, the blood flow through them is restricted. This, in turn, can result in tunnel vision and eventually blindness.

Hypertensive retinopathy can cause the blood vessels of the retina to become damaged and can cause narrowing of the blood vessels. One of the eye problems that can occur is that blood from the blood vessels in the eye begins to  leak into the back of the eye.

The condition of the eyes can be a precursor to hypertension. Arterioles are the blood vessels that supply blood to th eye. An eye examination can reveal a narrowing of these arteries. This narrowing takes place before you blood pressure is affected. So, if an opthamologist knows what to look for the condition of the eyes can indicate potential future high blood pressure problems.

To look for these arterioles, your opthamologist will use a tool called an ophthalmoscope. This tool allows your doctor to actually see how much the blood vessels have narrowed. Once he sees this, he can assign a grade (1-4) to the damage. A grade of 1 indicates minimal damage and has no symptoms. A grade of 4 indicates massive damage and is a warning that something should be done immediately. If the test shows a grade of 4, you are likely already experiencing vision problems.

There is only one treatment for hypertensive retinopathy. And that is for the person to get his blood pressure under control. If you are able to do this, and the damage is a grade 1 to 3, the retina will usually recover. If the damage is more sever, however, the damage is probably permanent.

In fact, a recent study found that patients who had narrowed blood vessels were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure over a five-year period as those who have blood vessels of normal thickness.

How Is This Condition Treated?

If you are having eye symptoms of high blood pressure such as worsening vision problems or headaches, the best you can do for yourself is to learn how to control high blood pressure. You will have to work with your physician to make some changes in your lifestyle that includes exercising more, taking your medications for high blood pressure regularly, and change your diet.  Many foods that are high in sodium can cause your blood pressure to spike, so you will have to learn to read labels.

Be sure that if you are experiencing eye symptoms of high blood pressure, that you see a doctor regularly to ensure that your blood pressure is under control and the rest of your organs have not been affected negatively from your condition.  

Be sure to tell your doctor if you are experiencing any side effects from the medication that has been prescribed for you.  Many people stop taking their prescribed meds because of discomfiting side effects.  Discuss this with your doctor if you are worried about any side effects that can be unpleasant or worrisome.

If you are uncomfortable with synthetic medications, there are easy to find herbs that lower blood pressure. Again, let your doctor know of any herbs that you are taking.

Other Eye Problems Caused By High Blood Pressure

Ischemic optic neuropathy -- damage to the nerves in the eye due to poor blood flow

Retinal artery occlusion -- blockage of the blood supply in the arteries to the retina

hypertensive retinopathy - Most patients with this will not have any symptoms until the disease has been pretty well developed.

Other eye symptoms of high blood pressure include the swelling of the optic nerve and the macula.  You may also have spots on your retina called exudates or cotton wool spots.

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