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. In addition to high blood pressure, damage from hypertensive retinopathy can also be amplified by diabetes, high cholesterol levels, or 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 later in the disease. These symptoms may include double vision, dim vision, headaches, and vision loss. Marano Eye Care treats patients with hypertensive retinopathy by first using an ophthalmoscope to examine the retina to see if blood vessels are visually narrowing or if fluid is leaking from the blood vessels. A fluorescein angiography may also be used to examine blood vessels.

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.