Hypertension is a chronic condition in which the blood pressure inside the arteries is elevated. Blood pressure has two components, the systolic and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the blood pressure inside the arteries while the heart muscle is contracting, and diastolic pressure is the blood pressure inside the arteries while the heart is in a relaxed state. A normal blood pressure is 120/80, with the top number being the systolic pressure and the bottom number being the diastolic pressure. Pressure over the normal range is known as hypertension.
Chronically elevated blood pressure may put stress on your heart and is a risk factor for serious medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, aneurysms, kidney disease and even problems with the eyes. For example, it is very common for people with very elevated blood pressures to experience blurred vision and headaches.
When hypertension begins to affect the eyes, we call it Hypertensive Retinopathy. In this condition, the blood vessels inside of the eye begin to narrow leading to damage and bleeding of the retinal tissue in a manner very similar to Diabetic Retinopathy. This process eventually leads to retinal swelling and poor overall circulation to the eye. If left untreated, Hypertensive Retinopathy may lead to significant vision loss and even blindness. For this reasons, it is very important that people with hypertension have a yearly check with their eye doctor or ophthalmologist.
Treatment for early Hypertensive Retinopathy is aimed at lowering your blood pressure in coordination with your primary care physician. When there is significant damage to the retinal tissue due to elevated blood pressure, sometimes laser treatment is needed to make sure no further damage ensues.