What is hypertensive retinopathy?

Hypertensive retinopathy is damage to the back part of the eye (retina) caused by high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause damage to blood vessels in the eyes. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it has been high, the more severe the damage is likely to be. Dr. Van Buren at Phoenix Ophthalmologists can see narrowing of blood vessels, and excess fluid oozing from blood vessels. The degree of retina damage (retinopathy) is graded on a scale of 1 to 4. At grade 1, no symptoms may be present. Grade 4 hypertensive retinopathy includes swelling of the optic nerve and of the visual center of the retina (macula). Such swelling can cause decreased vision.

hypertensive retinopathy

Other retinopathies that are known complications of high blood pressure are called:

diabetic retinopathy
ischemic optic neuropathy
retinal artery occlusion
retinal emboli
retinal microaneurysm
retinal vein occlusion

Symptoms of hypertensive retinopathy:

Visual disturbances, and sometimes sudden vision loss

Tests & Diagnosis of hypertensive retinopathy:

Blood Pressure
Flourescein Angiography and/or Optical Coherence Tomography
Dilated ophthalmologic examination which can show changes even if you have no symptoms

Control of high blood pressure is the only treatment for hypertensive retinopathy. Patients with grade 4 (severe hypertensive retinopathy) frequently also have heart and kidney complications of high blood pressure. The retina will generally recover well if the blood pressure is controlled, but some patients with grade 4 hypertensive retinopathy will have permanent damage to the optic nerve or macula. Complications associated with high blood pressure include irreversible damage to the optic nerve or macula, resulting in vision problems and potential blindness.

If you have high blood pressure (ie hypertension) and you are noticing vision changes, please contact Phoenix Ophthalmologists immediately for a thorough eye examination. And remember, keeping strict control of your hypertension is the best way to save your vision and your life!