The retina is the tissue layer located in the back of your eye. This layer transforms light into nerve signals that are then sent to the brain for interpretation. When your blood pressure is too high, the retina’s blood vessel walls may thicken. This may cause your blood vessels to become narrow, which then restricts blood from reaching the retina. In some cases, the retina becomes swollen.

Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels, limit the retina’s function and put pressure on the optic nerve, causing vision problems. This condition is called hypertensive retinopathy (HR).

Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy

You probably won’t have any symptoms until the condition has progressed extensively. Possible signs and symptoms include;

  • Reduced vision, Eye swelling, bursting of blood vessel, Double vision accompanied by headaches.

Get medical help immediately if your blood pressure is high and you suddenly have changes in your vision.

What causes Hypertensive Retinopathy (HR)?

Prolonged high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the main cause of HR. high blood pressure is a chronic problem in which the force of the blood against your arteries is too high. The force is a result of the blood pumping out of the heart and into the arteries as well as the force created as the heart rest between heartbeats. When the blood moves through the body at a higher pressure, the tissue that makes up the arteries will begin to stretch and will eventually become damaged. This leads to many problems over time.

HR generally occurs after your blood pressure has been consistently high over a prolonged period. Your blood pressure levels can be affected by:

  • A lack of physical activity, being overweight, eating too much salt and a stressful lifestyle.

High blood pressure also runs in families.

The risk factors for Hypertensive Retinopathy

The conditions that put you at a higher risk for HR are Prolonged high blood pressure, heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol, being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet, and heavy alcohol consumption.

How is hypertensive retinopathy diagnosed?


Your doctor will use a tool called an ophthalmoscope to examine your retina. This tool shines a light through your pupil to examine the back of your eye for signs of narrowing blood vessels or to see if nay fluid is leaking from your blood vessels. This procedure is painless. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete. In some cases, a special test called fluorescein angiography is performed to examine retinal blood flow.

Optometrist LAMBWE STEPHEN doing funduscopy using an ophthalmoscope.

Treatment for hypertensive retinopathy (HR)

Effective treatment for HR involves controlling and lowering high blood pressure with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle changes

A diet high in fruits and vegetables may help lower blood pressure. Regular physical activity, reducing salt intake, and limiting the amount of caffeine and alcoholic beverages you drink all contribute to healthy blood pressure as well. If you smoke, take steps to quit. If you’re overweight, losing weight is an effective strategy for controlling high blood pressure.

Tips to prevent Hypertensive Retinopathy

To prevent HR, take steps to avoid high blood pressure:

Get regular full eye exams every 6 months to maintain your vision; you only have one pair of eyes take care of them.

  • Take your blood pressure medication regularly.
  • Get regular exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Avoid smoking
  • Get regular medical exams to ensure that your blood pressure readings are normal.

– Article by Vision Care Optometrist, Chipata branch