How Can Hypertension Affect Your Eyesight?

We are aware of the many serious consequences of living with high blood pressure, or hypertension.  Prolonged, untreated hypertension can negatively impact your heart and your kidneys, but how can hypertension affect your eyesight?

High blood pressure can lead to a condition known as hypertensive retinopathy and the damage can be very serious if not addressed.

Eye close upThe retina is a layer of tissue located at back of the eye and contains cells that are sensitive to light. These cells trigger nerve impulses that pass via the optic nerve to the brain, where a visual image is formed. When your blood pressure is too high, the walls of the retina may thicken, which restricts blood flow to the retina and limits its function, resulting in potentially permanent vision problems, including blindness.

A person with hypertensive retinopathy wouldn’t typically display any symptoms until the condition has progressed. Possible signs may include:

  • Reduced vision
  • Eye swelling
  • Bursting of a blood vessel
  • Double vision accompanied by headaches

In most cases, an eye specialist can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy during an examination using an instrument called an opthalmoscope to examine the retina. Your doctor will look for signs of narrowing of blood vessels, spots on the retina, swelling or bleeding in the back of the eye.

Effective treatment for hypertensive retinopathy involves controlling your blood pressure. This can be done through medication and lifestyle changes. Most importantly, doctors recommend maintaining an ideal body weight, eating and healthy diet and exercising regularly as methods to lower your blood pressure.

If you are living with high blood pressure, or if you think you are, see a doctor immediately. If you do not have a doctor, you can make an appointment at Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center by calling 5486.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

What is White Coat Hypertension?

WhiteCoat-207x300Does the thought of having a physician take your blood pressure make you nervous? Anxiety over going to the doctor’s office can lead to an elevation in your blood pressure; a condition known as “white coat hypertension.”

White coat hypertension is a real condition that occurs when blood pressure readings at your doctor’s office are higher than they are in other settings, such as your home. The term white coat refers to the traditional white lab coat health care professionals wear in clinical settings.

The underlying cause of white coat hypertension is believed to be tension and stress associated with being examined by a physician. Not much attention was given to this condition since the blood pressure of patients returned to normal levels when taken in the home environment, where they feel more relaxed. Recent studies however have proven that people with white coat hypertension are twice as likely to develop true hypertension within a decade, compared to people with normal blood pressure levels.

How do you know if you have white coat hypertension and what should you do if you have it? The first step is for your doctor to have you monitor your blood pressure at home to see if it returns to normal levels. If it does, together, you and your doctor can decide whether to treat it or not. On one hand, if your blood pressure is normal during the rest of the day, taking blood pressure medications can lead to hypotension (low blood pressure). On the other hand, people with white coat hypertension might have elevated blood pressure during other stressful parts of the day. Many factors, such as age, family history, and the existence of other conditions will help the doctor make the right decision for you.

There are things that you can do to reduce your anxiety and stress before having your blood pressure checked by a health care professional. First, avoid drinking excessive amounts of water before checking your blood pressure because water can increase your reading. Also, do not participate in any physical activity before having your blood pressure taken. Excessive physical exertion will raise blood pressure. Lastly, avoid stressful situations and remain calm leading up to and during your visit to the doctor’s office.

If you think you have hypertension, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. If you do not have a primary care physician, call Flushing Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center at 718-670-5486 to schedule an appointment.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.