Hypertensive retinopathy and high blood pressure: Causes and home remedies

By: Bel Marra Health | Blood Pressure | Sunday, September 04, 2016 - 09:30 AM

Close-up of a female doctor examining a patientVision loss may seem like something that occurs naturally through aging, but this isn’t always the case. There are many other contributing factors that can harm our vision – and controlling these issues can protect our vision even in our old age.

You’re probably familiar with vision loss associated with diabetes, but there is another health condition that can affect our vision – it’s hypertension. That’s right, our blood pressure can greatly affect our vision and can lead to hypertensive retinopathy.

To understand what hypertensive retinopathy is, it’s important to start with retinopathy. Retinopathy is an eye condition that causes damage to the retina – the part of the eye that senses light – and can lead to partial or complete vision loss.

Hypertensive retinopathy then is a type of retinopathy caused by hypertension – or high blood pressure. High blood pressure over time causes damage to the blood vessels – this can occur anywhere in the body and can lead to heart problems. Bleeding, blockages, and thickening of the arteries within the eyes may ultimately affect our vision.

Causes of hypertensive retinopathy

As we mentioned, hypertensive retinopathy is brought on by the effects of chronic high blood pressure, so the causes are similar for the two conditions. Some of the common causes are:

  • Lack of activity – being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Poor diet – consuming too much processed and fatty foods, salt, and sugar.

Difference between diabetic retinopathy and hypertensive retinopathy

Diabetes can also lead to retinopathy, but there are some differences to take note of.

In hypertensive retinopathy, the blood vessels become damaged and may bleed. In diabetic retinopathy, the vessels actually deteriorate. Fluid can then collect in the retina leading to swelling, which affects sharpness of vision.

Also, in diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may grow on the surface of the retina, causing bleeding. These vessels are unstable, whereas in hypertensive retinopathy, although the vessels may become damaged, they do not move.

Lastly, the retina in diabetic retinopathy may separate and a gel can form between the lens and retina, leading to bleeding and blocking vision. Not to say that diabetic retinopathy is more severe than hypertensive retinopathy, but as you can tell, much damage can occur to the eye as a whole.

Symptoms and grades of hypertensive retinopathy

Hypertensive retinopathy symptoms depend on the grading, which comes in four levels, ranging from mild to severe.

Similar to hypertension, hypertensive retinopathy symptoms are minimal. The only symptom people may notice is blurry vision, but unfortunately, by that point, permanent damage may have set in. If you notice changes to your vision, this is a result of very high blood pressure, so seeking medical attention is advised.

Hypertensive retinopathy grading 1: In this grade, the arterioles become thicker.

Hypertensive retinopathy grading 2: The veins begin to constrict and frontal arteriolar spasm occurs. Minimal symptoms associated with this grading can be seen as normal hypertension symptoms.

Hypertensive retinopathy grading 3: Fat deposits occur within the eye, so does hemorrhaging and ischemia. One may also experience headaches, vertigo, and nervousness. Blood pressure is high in this grading.

Hypertensive retinopathy grading 4: This type is characterized by papilledema, which is the swelling of the optic disc. You may experience weight loss, have elevated blood pressure, headaches, and heart problems.

Home remedies to prevent hypertensive retinopathy

As you can see, hypertensive retinopathy can be quite serious and result in complete vision loss, so preventing its onset is vital to maintain healthy vision. The secret then to preventing hypertensive retinopathy is to monitor and manage blood pressure.

Some effective tips to prevent hypertensive retinopathy and maintain healthy blood pressure are as follows:

  • Exercise regularly – Know your capabilities and create an exercise plan best suited to your abilities. Even 10 minutes can begin to help lower blood pressure.
  • Eat well – Avoid processed foods and foods with high amounts of salt and sugar, minimize trans fats, and eat whole foods to benefit the entire body.
  • Keep a healthy body weight – Being overweight can contribute to high blood pressure. By exercising and eating well you can maintain a healthy weight and ensure your blood pressure stays healthy.
  • Monitor your health – Keeping track of your blood pressure is easy and can be done at home as long as you have the device. Monitoring your blood pressure will allow you to catch problems on early and make appropriate changes.
  • Follow directions on medications – If your doctor has you on medications for your blood pressure, ensure you are taking these as directed. Misuse of medications will diminish their effectiveness and lead to further problems.

Our bodies are so connected that even if one aspect of our health changes for the worse it can lead to greater problems elsewhere. This is how hypertensive retinopathy comes about, as blood pressure that is unmanaged affects our eyes. Maintaining overall good health is vital for maintaining proper function of the body.

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