High blood pressure warning: The sign in your eyes

High blood pressure is caused by narrowing blood vessels making the heart work harder to pump through the vessels. This increased workload causes a spike in bp readings, placing a strain on vital organs – and there is a sign in the eyes that could indicate someone has high blood pressure.

High blood pressure can damage the vessels supplying blood to your retina, causing retinopathy.

Mayo Clinic

High blood pressure is unsettling because the symptoms rarely reveal themselves until it is serious, leaving many ill-prepared to deal with the risks associated. Often branded the “silent killer”, one in four people live with high blood pressure, although most will not realise it. If untreated, a high bp reading can can lead to serious health complications such heart attacks and strokes. Occasionally, however, a very high blood pressure or a rapidly rising reading can show sudden and acute symptoms in the eyes.

There are three ways a spike in blood pressure can damage the eyes, these include:

  • Eye blood vessel damage (retinopathy). High blood pressure can damage the vessels supplying blood to your retina, causing retinopathy. This condition can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and complete loss of vision. If you also have both diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re at an even greater risk.
  • Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy). In this condition, fluid builds up under your retina because of a leaky blood vessel in a layer of blood vessels located under the retina. Choroidopathy (kor-oid-OP-uh-thee) can result in distorted vision or in some cases scarring that impairs vision.
  • Nerve damage (optic neuropathy). This is a condition in which blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve. It can kill nerve cells in your eyes, which may cause bleeding within your eye or vision loss.

All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years.

Further tests may be required to assess if any damage has been done to vital organs or the risk of damage has increased. The health body explained: “They will ask about your family’s medical history, what medicines you take, and any physical changes you’ve noticed, such as muscle spasms or urinating more often. Information about your general health, weight, diet, exercise and drinking habits helps your GP make a diagnosis too.”

They may want to carry out:

  • A urine test – to check for protein in your urine that could be a sign of kidney damage
  • A blood test – to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG) – to check how your heart is working
  • An eye test – to check for problems like bleeding and swelling in or behind your eyes

If a person’s blood pressure is very high – over 180/110mmHg – or their GP suspects it’s caused by a serious condition, they may be referred for specialist tests.

Medication may be required to lower a bp reading. The type of medicine recommended will depend on things like how high a person’s blood pressure is, their age and ethnicity.