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How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Eyes
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February 13, 2011, last updated April 11, 2013
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist



High blood pressure, a condition that affects more than 74.5 million
people in the United States according to the American Heart
Association, is a deadly attacker for many reasons.
High blood
pressure not only raises your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart
attack – high blood pressure affects other major organs in your
body, too.

In particular, high blood pressure can cause serious problems for
your eyes. Did you know high blood pressure is connected with optic
nerve damage and glaucoma? Are you at risk of blindness if your
blood pressure is too high? How exactly does high blood pressure
affect your eyes and what can you do about it?

What is High Blood Pressure?

Healthy blood pressure is vital to life. Blood pressure is the pressure
in your veins that helps transport oxygen through the blood to your
organs. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers - the top
number is systolic blood pressure, the pressure in the blood vessels
when the heart contracts. The bottom number is diastolic blood
pressure, resting blood pressure.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute,
high blood
pressure is 140/90 mmHg or above. Will you see any difference in
your vision if your blood pressure reaches this level?

How High is Too High?

Blood pressure may start to affect your eyes once you reach a blood
pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg. But be careful – even though you
may
feel fine and see clearly, you can still have a vision problem in
the future. You could still be slowly going blind.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure, while it may produce no
symptoms, can slowly taking you down a dangerous road to possible
eye disease and blindness.

When your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89
mmHg, you are classified as having prehypertension –
prehypertension won’t affect your eyes but you have a greater
chance of developing high blood pressure and eye problems in the
future if you don’t take steps now.

It’s important to remember that one high reading doesn’t necessarily
mean you have high blood pressure – your physician needs to take a
reading several times and you can also monitor your blood pressure
at home. If you have a reading of over 140/90 mmHg over a period
of time your blood pressure will start to affect the health of your
eyes, just as it will affect your heart.

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Eyes?

























Just like the blood vessels to the heart, the tiny blood vessels
supplying oxygen to the eyes can be damaged by high blood
pressure.

High blood pressure causes the blood vessels in your eyes to burst or
bleed – a condition otherwise known as retinopathy. This is
dangerous – not only does it impair vision but it may cause blindness.

You are at much greater risk if you have diabetes in addition to high
blood pressure. Retinopathy may produce no symptoms, or you may
experience headaches, see spots on the retina – known as cotton
wool spots – or have blood leaking around your eye.

Your physician will examine the blood vessels and grade the problem
– grade one signifies no problem, while grade four means
retinopathy. High blood pressure also causes fluid build-up under the
retina - choroidopathy. This results in impaired vision or scarring to
the eye.

Does High Blood Pressure Cause Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve associated with increased eye
pressure, which leads to impaired vision and blindness. Does high
blood pressure mean higher pressure in the eye? Experts are unsure
if there is a connection but high blood pressure may be a risk factor.
Diabetes is a risk factor in developing glaucoma, and people with high
blood pressure are at greater risk of developing diabetes. If there is
no direct connection, lowering your blood pressure will at least help
remove a clear and present glaucoma danger.

What Should You Do? Steps to Protect Your Eyes Against Damage
from High Blood Pressure

1. Vision Checks Can Help Diagnose High Blood Pressure

Your physician may check your eyes by looking at the blood vessels
in order to see if any damage is being done by high blood pressure.

According to 2004 research from the Center for Vision Research at
the University of Sydney and Westmead Hospital, NSW, Australia, the
tiny blood vessels in the eye seem to narrow before blood pressure
exceeds normal ranges – looking into your eyes can help predict the
development of high blood pressure up to five years in the future.

Your eyes are not just a window to your soul – they are the only
window where these small blood vessels can be viewed and tell you a
lot about what’s going on in the other, unseen, blood vessels in your
body. Keep an eye on your vision and your blood pressure –
identifying problems with one will help safeguard the other.

2.
Bilberry Protects Against Eye Damage and Hypertension.

A
2005 NIH published study from researchers in Russia found that
bilberry extracts protect against the development of cataracts and
macular degeneration in laboratory animals. Their experiments
suggested that bilberry extracts prevent cataracts and macular
degeneration almost completely. Supplements of Vitamin E, on the
other hand, had no significant effects. Bilberries are native to Europe
and are deep blue, resembling blueberries.

How much bilberry do you need to take daily to prevent eye damage.
The researchers used fairly high doses-- 20 mg for every kilogram of
body weight including 4.5 mg of antocianidin. This would mean that a
100 kilogram man would need 2000 mg of bilberry extract a day. In
other studies, bilberry has also been found to be effective against
hypertensive retinopathy.

Another study in 2010 led by researchers from the University of
Chieti-Pescara in San Valentino Italy has found that a drug made
from extracts of bilberry can lower interocular blood pressure
significantly.


3.
Monitor Your Iron Levels. High levels of iron in your blood have
been associated with increased risk of hypertensive retinopathy. A
2010 study from Akdeniz University Faculty of Medicine in Turkey
discovered that those with the most severe forms of hypertensive
retinopathy had blood iron levels almost 20% higher than those
without the disease.  




Bottom line: A fair amount of research suggest that bilberry
supplements can help to improve your chances of battling eye
damage related to high blood pressure.  You should also probably
avoid taking extra iron supplements if you are at risk for eye damage
from high blood pressure, without first checking with your doctor.

4.
Even Your Children Are at Risk

Unfortunately, even children can suffer from hypertensive
retinopathy. A 2013 study led by Dr. K.M. Williams and Dr. A.N. Shah
of the UK study discovered that 18% of all children with high blood
pressure also have hypertensive retinopathy, putting them at risk for
blindness.  




Sources:  Perossini M, Guidi G, Chiellini S, Siravo D. [Diabetic and
hypertensive retinopathy therapy with Vaccinium myrtillus
anthocyanosides (Tegens). Double blind, placebo-controlled clinical
trial]. [Article in Italian]. Ann Ottalmol Clin Ocul 1987;113:1173-7.

Robert D Steigerwalt Jr,Gianni Belcaro,Paolo Morazzoni,Ezio
Bombardelli,Carolina Burki,Frank Schönlau,Department of Biomedical
Sciences,University of Chieti-Pescara, SanValentino, Italy; Indena S.p.
A.Scientific Department, Milan, Italy;Horphag Research (UK) Ltd.,
Geneva,Switzerland;Horphag Research (UK)
Ltd. South Kensington, London UK"Mirtogenol® potentiates
latanoprost in loweringintraocular pressure and improves ocular
bloodflow in asymptomatic subjects"





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