Having high blood pressure (hypertension) can put your eye health and vision at risk. Hypertension puts stress on the small, delicate blood vessels in the eyes. The pressure from stressed or malfunctioning blood vessels in the eye can damage the retina, the tissue at the back of the eye that receives and converts light allowing us to see.
Because hypertension is a progressive and systemic condition that affects every part of the body, people with this condition should have a comprehensive eye exam every year, even if they aren’t noticing vision problems.
Three common eye problems that can develop due to hypertension are cataracts, ocular hypertension or glaucoma, and hypertensive retinopathy.
A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye, which makes the lens unable to focus. People with hypertension or who take certain hypertension medications may experience a quicker deterioration of the lens. Cataracts can be removed with surgery and the old lens can be replaced with a clear lens.
Ocular Hypertension or Glaucoma
Ocular hypertension is when the pressure in the eyes (IOP or “intraocular pressure”) is too high. Persistently high pressure within the eye can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve, leading to glaucoma and permanent vision loss.
When chronic high blood pressure damages the retina, hypertensive retinopathy can be diagnosed. Changes in vision due to this condition may be reversible if diagnosed early and high blood pressure can be controlled while the retina recovers.