Hypertension is often termed the "silent killer" because without regular blood pressure checks and treatment, it may go unnoticed for many years until a catastrophic medical event occurs. In addition to your major organs, hypertension can cause irreparable damage to your eyes. With good blood pressure control you can reduce your risk of eye damage.
Ocular Hypertension And Glaucoma
Much like the pressure within the blood vessels throughout your body are damaged by acute and prolonged hypertension, the blood vessels within the eye can become damaged. Ocular hypertension is increased blood pressure within the eye, which can lead to vision loss and permanent damage to the eye. In many cases, elevated blood pressure within the eye can go unnoticed and may only be recognized during an eye exam. Although ocular hypertension is distinctly different than glaucoma, some people with ocular hypertension eventually develop glaucoma. When people with hypertension develop glaucoma, poorly controlled hypertension can lead to a faster progression of glaucoma, making vision decline more rapidly.
Hypertension can cause significant damage to the blood vessels responsible for blood supply to the retina. The type of damage that occurs with hypertensive retinopathy can include narrowing of the blood vessels, which inhibits adequate blood flow to the retina, and small hemorrhages of the vessels. When retinal changes are caught early, keeping your blood pressure under control can prevent new or worsening hemorrhaging and other vascular changes. The degree of hypertensive retinopathy can be used as an indicator of cardiovascular health. Severe damage of the retina due to hypertension is highly correlated with damage in larger blood vessels throughout the body and increased risk of vascular disease.
Optic Nerve Damage
The optic nerve is essential to vision because it provides communication between the eye and the brain to process visual information. Damage at any point along the optic nerve can cause partial or complete loss of vision, even when the eye is functioning normally. One consequence of hypertension is the possibility to decreased blood flow to the optic nerve. Since adequate blood supply is necessary to provide nourishment to the nerve, the optic nerve may begin to shrink (atrophy). Decreased blood flow to the optic nerve can happen due to narrowing of blood vessels (stenosis) or blocked blood vessels (ischemia).
Hypertension is a significant chronic disease that can affect vision and lead to permanent visual impairments or complete blindness. Regular monitoring of your blood pressure and vision can help you catch problems early when they are easier to manage. For more information, contact Webster Eye Care or a similar company.