Does having high blood pressure damage your eyes?

Posted on

03 March 2022

Author: Kate Green

High blood pressure affects eyes

How does high blood pressure affect your eye health?


March is Save Your Vision Month, so we’re looking at how you can preserve your vision and take precautions to protect your eye health. One of the most common medical conditions which can have a negative impact on your vision is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause a great number of issues in your eyes, some of which lead to irreparable damage. This is why your blood pressure is often taken at an eye test. The back of your eyes can also provide clues about the health of your arteries and cholesterol levels, so having regular eye tests benefits far more than just your eye health.


1 in 3 adults in the UK are estimated to have high blood pressure. One of the key things to note about high blood pressure is that it has no noticeable symptoms most of the time, leading to 5 million British adults living with high blood pressure, undiagnosed. For adults, a blood pressure reading of between 90/60 and 120/80 mmHg is ideal, while a reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher is cause for concern. A ‘hypertensive crisis’ is the name given to readings of 180/20 mmHg or higher, and you should seek medical assistance urgently if your reading is this high. The numbers show the pressure of the blood flow as your heart contracts and relaxes to pump blood around your body.


High blood pressure can lead to the following eye conditions:

  • Hypertensive retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Choroidopathy
  • Optic neuropathy
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We’re going to look into each of these conditions, how high blood pressure can play a part in its onset, and what steps you can take to reduce your blood pressure to a healthy level.


What eye conditions are caused by high blood pressure?


A number of eye conditions can be caused by high blood pressure, and some of these can have particularly devastating long-term effects on your vision. Hypertensive retinopathy involves damage to the blood vessels at the back of the eye. When these blood vessels become damaged, they can cause bleeding in the eye eventually leading to blurry vision and, in severe cases, total loss of vision. There might also be spots on the retina, macular swelling, or narrowing blood vessels preventing blood flow from reaching the retina.


Glaucoma is one of the most commonly-associated eye conditions with blood pressure. In patients with glaucoma, fluid builds up in the front of the eye, in turn leading to an increase in eye pressure. Over time, this can begin to damage the optic nerve and slowly affect peripheral vision. In serious cases, and if it’s left untreated, glaucoma can lead to total blindness. You can read more about glaucoma on our blog to discover the warning signs and what steps you can take to minimise your chances of developing it.


High blood pressure can also cause fluid to build up under your retina in a condition called choroidopathy. This increase in fluid where it shouldn’t be leads to distorted, blurry vision and even scarring inside the eye.

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Optic neuropathy is nerve damage in your eye caused by the flow of blood to the retina being blocked. This blockage kills nerve cells, causing vision loss and bleeding within the eye. Over time, this damage becomes worse meaning that early treatment is vital when it comes to preserving your vision. Of course, the best way to tackle this is by taking preventative measures in order to keep your blood pressure at healthy, low levels.


How can you reduce your blood pressure?


There are several lifestyle changes you can implement in order to lower your blood pressure. Many of these centre around your diet and exercise habits, with suggestions such as:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce salt in your diet
  • Reduce alcohol intake
  • Exercise frequently (at least 30 minutes per day)
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat more potassium (found in bananas, avocados, leafy greens etc.)
  • Minimise stress


Other risk factors for having high blood pressure include your gender (men are more likely to suffer with hypertension than women), being aged 60+, as well as having a family history of high blood pressure. It tends to be inherited and could also be related in part to your ethnicity. It has been found that patients of black African or black Caribbean descent have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure than their white or Asian counterparts.


Ensure that you visit your optician regularly for an eye test as this is the best way to monitor any changes to your vision and eye health. Picking up any blood pressure-related problems as soon as possible allows you to seek treatment promptly and therefore act to save your vision before it’s too late.

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