Many older adults suffer from high blood pressure (HBP), which can cause damage to blood vessels and kidneys, stroke, and heart disease. What many people don't know is that HBP can also lead to vision loss. Here's an overview of why controlling your blood pressure is crucial to maintaining good vision.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure that blood places on the walls of the veins and arteries as it circulates through the body. HBP or hypertension occurs when that pressure exceeds a certain amount. Normal blood pressure readings are 120/80 or less, but as you age, your blood vessels lose their elasticity, which often leads to increased blood pressure.
How Can HBP Lead to Vision Loss?
Your eyes contain many tiny blood vessels, which can be damaged when subjected to long-term HPB. Your HBP can cause
- Hypertensive retinopathy: This condition is caused by damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This can cause bleeding in the eye and blurred vision or even loss of vision.
- Choroidopathy: This is caused by fluid buildup behind the retina, which can result in distorted or impaired vision.
- Optic neuropathy: Hypertension can damage the blood vessels carrying blood to the optic nerve, which is responsible for changing the light from the retina into images. Damaged blood vessels can cause bleeding within the eye and vision loss.
Hypertension can also cause a stroke, which can damage the optic nerve or the area of the brain responsible for processing images.
How Is Hypertensive Vision Loss Diagnosed?
Typically, hypertension causes no noticeable symptoms, so the first indication of blood pressure-related eye disease may be headaches or blurred or impaired vision. If you do notice vision changes, it's important to contact your eye care specialist. They will use an ophthalmoscope to check for narrowed blood vessels and signs that fluid has leaked from them, as well as the extent of any damage to the optic nerve.
What Can You Do to Stop Prevent Vision Loss?
There is only one way to slow, stop, or prevent vision loss due to HBP and that is to lower your blood pressure. Your physician can help you with a strategy for blood pressure control, which may include
- Blood pressure medication
- Reducing salt intake
- Reducing alcohol intake
- A regular exercise schedule
- Maintaining an optimum weight
- At-home blood pressure monitoring
If you notice any changes in your vision, it's important to consult your eye doctor. And if you haven't had a health check-up or had your blood pressure taken recently, don't put it off. Discovering if you have blood pressure issues now could keep you from experiencing preventable vision loss in the future.