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What is Hypertensive Retinopathy?


Hypertensive retinopathy is damage to the retina caused by high blood pressure. The retina is a sensitive layer of tissue at the back portion of the eye that is responsible for changing what you see into electrical information that is sent to the brain for processing via the optical nerve. In patients with high blood pressure, it’s possible that blood vessels within the retina can be damaged by this preexisting condition. The higher the blood pressure and the longer that it has been experienced, the greater the damage may be to the eye and field of vision.

In addition to high blood pressure, damage from hypertensive retinopathy can also be amplified by diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and smoking. High blood pressure can also cause damage to the nerves in the eye due to poor blood flow, blockage of blood supply to the retina, and blockage of the veins that carry blood away from the retina.

Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy

Most patients who are suffering from hypertensive retinopathy do not experience any noticeable symptoms until the disease begins to progress for some time. These symptoms may include:

  • Bursting of a blood vessel
  • Dim vision
  • Headaches accompanied by double vision
  • Vision loss
  • Eye Swelling

You should schedule an eye appointment with your eye doctor if you ever experience any of the above symptoms.

Hypertensive Retinopathy Diagnosis

There are two ways to diagnose Hypertensive Retinopathy, and both involve a trip to an eye care professional. The first method utilizes an ophthalmoscope to shine a light into the pupil which allows the doctor to examine the retina to see if blood vessels are visually narrowing or if fluid is leaking from the blood vessels.

The other option is a fluorescein angiography which is another test used to examine blood vessels. During this test, the pupils are dilated through special eye drops which allow the doctor to take images of the eyes. Next, a dye is injected into a vein (usually in the arm) and pictures are taken to see how the dye moves through the eye. Both hypertensive retinopathy tests are pain free.

Hypertensive Retinopathy Treatment

Hypertensive retinopathy is graded on a scale of 1-4 based on severity. Patients diagnosed in grade 1 may not experience any symptoms. Patients in grade 2 and grade 3 are experiencing changes in blood vessels within the retina, but have not experienced any significant vision loss. Grade 4 patients are the most severe, experiencing swelling of the optic nerve and of the retina. This swelling may cause decreased vision or vision loss. This grading system is utilized to determine treatment and severity.

Lifestyle changes should be made as a part of Hypertensive Retinopathy treatment. These changes include eating healthier, quitting smoking, and taking other steps to reduce your blood pressure. Medication may also be prescribed, which will work to also control your blood pressure.

Get Help For Hypertensive Retinopathy in NJ Today

If you have high blood pressure or think you may be affected by Hypertensive Retinopathy. It is important to see an eye care specialist as soon as possible. Waiting until it has progressed to a stage 3 or 4 could mean irreversible damage to the eye and vision, and increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, and death. Marano Eye Care is the leading eye care specialists of New Jersey, with locations conveniently in Livingston, Newark, and Denville. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and learn more.

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