High blood pressure is often dubbed the “silent killer” because the condition rarely shows symptoms until it is serious. One in four people in the UK live with the condition without realising it. If left untreated it can damage vital functions in the body, including the eyes. There are three main ways the condition can impact the eyes.
According to Mayo Clinic, high blood pressure can damage the vessels supplying blood to your retina, causing retinopathy. This condition can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and complete loss of vision.
“If you also have both diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re at an even greater risk,” the health body said.
Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy) can also occur. In this condition, fluid builds up under your retina because of a leaky blood vessel in a layer of blood vessels located under the retina. Choroidopathy (kor-oid-OP-uh-thee) can result in distorted vision or in some cases scarring that impairs vision.
High blood pressure can also inflict nerve damage. “This is a condition in which blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve. It can kill nerve cells in your eyes, which may cause bleeding within your eye or vision loss,” it added.
According to Blood Pressure UK, when a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, their doctor may wish to examine their eyes or refer them to a specialist clinic.
A simple eye test can look at the small blood vessels in the back of the eye, to check if any damage has been done by high blood pressure.
Looking at the back of the eye reveals whether or not small blood vessels (capilliaries) have thickened, narrowed or burst. This is the only place where the small blood vessels can be viewed and often any problems here are repeated in the small blood vessels in places that cannot be seen, such as in the kidneys.
In fact, many people discover they have high blood pressure because their optician notices the signs during a routine eye test, said the charity.
Other ways high blood pressure can damage your body include increasing the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks
- Heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Aortic aneurysms
- Kidney disease
- Vascular dementia
“If you have high blood pressure, reducing it even a small amount can help lower your risk of these health conditions,” said the NHS.
The only way of knowing whether a person has high blood pressure is to have a blood pressure test.
All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.
A person can get their blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
- At your GP surgery
- At some pharmacies
- As part of your NHS Health Check
- in some workplaces
It can be conducted at home with a home blood pressure monitor. This may offer a more accurate reading – people can monitor real-time fluctuations.