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Hypertension and the eyes

Hypertension, also known as elevated or high blood pressure levels, is a long term systemic disease that can lead to severe health problems including heart disease and strokes. When your blood pressure is constantly high, the pressure can damage the blood vessel walls. In turn, the body tries to heal itself by compensating and remodeling the blood vessels. This however affects the intensity and the way the heart pumps the blood to the body, leading to heart problems and possible strokes.

As the eye is the only structure in the body where we can actually look inside and see the blood flow, occasionally, optometrists can identify early blood vessel structural changes. For people who already have high blood pressure, if it is not under control, the pressure inside the retinal blood vessels can leak causing hemorrhages or bleeding inside the eyes. This is called hypertensive retinopathy.

With severe hypertension, also known as malignant hypertension, the heart can release plaques or emboli that can travel to the eyes and block the retinal blood vessels causing retinal vein occlusions, also known as a stroke inside the eyes.

Since almost everyone, as they get older, will eventually develop hypertension, it is very important to have annual eye examinations, especially if you have been diagnosed with it. Together, along with your primary care physician, Dr. Chow and associates can help manage and monitor your blood pressure levels and help ensure a healthy eye.

 For more information, please visit www.hypertension.ca