Signs of High Blood Pressure
in the Eye!

An eye examination can show up unnoticed health problems developing in a patient. Signs of high blood pressure also can be detected that can make you aware that you have the condition and help you treat it in it`s early stages.

Even during an eye examination for cataracts or other eye problems like glaucoma, an Ophthalmologists or Optometrists, if they have a trained eye, can also detect signs of high blood pressure.

Dr. John I. Loewenstein, of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, who is a retina specialist said that “Changes inside the retina can offer an early warning sign of damage to the heart, kidneys, and elsewhere that may influence treatment decisions.”

Eyes are therefore a window to the health of our circulatory system as was discovered at the Center for Eye Research, University of Melbourne, Australia by Tien Wong. He showed through several extensive studies that abnormalities of the retina`s blood vessels could alert a patient to the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

During a Dilated Fundus Examination (DFE) where the back of the eye is projected onto a screen, an eye specialist can detect abnormalities of the fundus (back part of the eye), the retina, and blood vessels.

What are these abnormalities and what do they look like? If hypertensive retinopathy is diagnosed the patient has an early warning of stroke that can perhaps be prevented. In hypertensive retinopathy the blood vessels in the retina either narrow or balloon and the base of the optic nerve becomes swollen.

Other Signs of High Blood Pressure in Vision

When Hypertensive Retinopathy is diagnosed; the Ophthalmologist may have noticed fluid leaking from blood vessels. This is called Retinal Vein Occlusion. It can cause blurred vision if the fluid builds up in the Macula, the part of the retina for vision detail.

In moderate to severe hypertensive retinopathy, light fuzzy spots that look similar to cotton wool can be seen on the retina, hemorrhages show up as dark flame shaped patches.

Narrowing of blood vessels may also be seen through the ophthalmoscope.

You may be interested to know too, that back in 2004, Hypertension, the Journal of the American Heart Association, reported that signs of high blood pressure can be seen in the arterioles, tiny arteries that supply blood to the retina.

Professor of ophthalmology, Paul Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D, co-author of a study carried out at the Center for Vision Research, University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital, said that these tiny blood vessels “appear to narrow before blood pressure exceeds normal ranges.” What fascinates me about this study is that it shows an examination of the retina can point even earlier to indications of severe hypertension risk than a mild hypertension reading does, because it can be detected as stated by Dr. Mitchell “…before blood pressure exceeds normal ranges.”

Another interesting point he made was that “the association was even stronger among patients younger than age 65.” This is all the more reason why it`s beneficial to have regular eye examinations before the age of retirement.