Can High Blood Pressure Affect Your Eyes?

by Jan 4, 2021

There are many systemic conditions that can manifest in the eyes and these are looked for in your comprehensive eye examination with us. One of these conditions is actually untreated high blood pressure, or hypertension. This article will explain the changes that hypertension can cause in the eyes and what can be done about them.

Hypertensive Retinopathy

Hypertension refers to blood pressure that is equal to or above 130 mmHg systolic or 80 mmHg diastolic.

Hypertensive retinopathy is when high blood pressure causes adverse effects in the retina, the layer of photosensitive cells and nerve fibers at the back of the eye.

Other adverse effects include damage to the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain, and to the choroid, which is composed of blood vessels that feed the retina and optic nerve.

The long term effects of uncontrolled hypertension are due to atherosclerosis, which is thinning and blockage of the blood vessels that allow for transport of oxygen and nutrients to various tissues and removal of waste from them.

This can cause blood vessel blockage or small aneurysms (bulgings in the blood vessels) and the lack of oxygen transport can lead to vision loss.

The retinal blood vessels can narrow, atrophy, and bleed, also causing some retinal cells to swell from damage. In the most extreme stage of malignant hypertension, the optic nerve can become swollen.

This demonstrates very high blood pressure that requires emergent hospitalization.

If caught early, these changes can be addressed and the blood pressure can be controlled, reversing the more extreme changes that have happened in the back of the eye.

Some signs may remain the same, though these are not concerning if they are stable. Symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy include eye pain, headaches, and blurry vision.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Hypertension can be caused by another disease process, medication side effect, or drug interaction, but it most commonly occurs on its own without something else to bring it on.

Risk factors include a family history, a high salt diet, obesity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, stress, and ethnicity.

The biggest risk factor for hypertensive retinopathy is the duration and intensity of the elevated blood pressure. The longer and higher that the blood pressure has been elevated, the more severe the damage to the back of the eye will be.

Hypertension Management

The treatment for this condition is mainly focused around controlling the blood pressure and bringing it to a normal level, along with dealing with any complications in the eye and rest of the body as they come.

It is important to work with your family doctor at this step to decide on the proper lifestyle change or pharmaceutical drug to initiate.

With time, the major changes that have occurred at the back of the eye may be reversed and, as long as the blood pressure is controlled, should not recur.

This depends on the case and the duration of time that the blood pressure was elevated for. In cases of extremely high blood pressure, one will need to visit the emergency room immediately and intravenous hypotensive drugs will be required.


Our optometrist at Eye Contact in Acworth, GA excels in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrist at (770) 529-1925 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about how high blood pressure (ie: hypertension) can affect your eyes. Our eye doctor, Dr. Wes Mobley provides the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Acworth, Georgia and its surrounding areas.


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