Eye Matters
March 10, 2006

Hypertensive Retinopathy

Hypertensive retinopathy is a term used to describe the abnormalities that occur in the posterior part of the human eye (retina) related to arterial hypertension (high blood pressure). These changes are visible in the eye exam (eye fundus) thanks to an instrument called ophthalmoloscope which allows us to see the retina directly through the pupil along with all its blood vessels. This apparatus also possesses a lens system that amplifies the image seen and a light that illuminates the interior of the eye. {{more}}

What are the symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy? The majority of patients do NOT have symptoms for a very long time and the changes are seen during a routine eye fundus which should form part of the periodic control of high blood pressure.

Why is it produced? The increase in blood pressure results in damage to the blood vessels of the retina which are in charge of nutrition and oxygen transport of the same. Upon an increase in the blood pressure, liquid exits the blood vessels of the retina producing contraction and decrease in the blood flow towards certain regions creating damage with hemorrhage and retinal edema. The degree of retinal damage (retinopathy) is graded on a scale of 1 to 4, grade 4 being hypertensive retinopathy including vision changes and can result in blindness.

How is hypertensive retinopathy treated? There is no specific treatment for hypertensive retinopathy; however it is very important to adequately control the blood pressure levels within normal limits so avoiding or decreasing the damage that high blood pressure can cause in the different organs of our bodies and especially our eyes.

When your blood pressure is high the heart must work harder to pump the same amount of blood through the arteries. It is therefore very important to know your blood pressure and if it is too high to take steps to control it. You can control your blood pressure by healthy eating, (fruits, vegetables, low salt) daily exercise and by taking your medication the way that it was prescribed.

Remember, the eye is an organ where damage is easily visible at an early stage so regular eye examinations are important.