Most people associate going to the eye doctor with getting new glasses or contact lens prescription in order to improve their vision. There is a lot more to an eye exam than asking if option 1 or 2 is better. When bright lights are shined into the eyes during a complete eye exam, there is a lot that can be told about the systemic health of a patient.  

High blood pressure (Hypertension) is a very common disease within the United States and affects nearly half of the adult population. Some patients are unaware that they have the disease due to its asymptomatic nature. According to the CDC, approximately 1 in 3 adults don’t know they have high blood pressure and are left untreated. It is important to see your primary care physician regularly to have your blood pressure checked and monitored. If treatment is required, they can initiate medication therapy. 

So, what changes happen within the eye from high blood pressure? When we look into your eyes, we are looking for ocular problems such as cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. We are also able to assess the nature of the blood vessels. The eye is the only location in the body that we are able to assess blood vessels without having to open the skin.  

Eye professionals look for changes in the color of blood vessels. Healthy blood vessels have a distinct red color, however when there is high blood pressure, they have a more reflective silver color due to the thickening of the vessel wall. Occlusions and increased pressure on other vessels can also be associated with thickening of the vessel walls which can lead to impaired inflow or outflow of blood to your eyes. Healthy blood vessels don’t have many twists and turns to them, however hypertensive vessels have more kinks and turns. Blood vessels also have the ability to leak fluid into the retina especially if there is a backup of blood flow due to elevated blood pressure. 

Most patients won’t notice blood pressure changes in their eyes until end stage of disease. Most patients are caught in the early stage of the disease and once blood pressure is controlled; the eyes aren’t at risk of end stage hypertensive changes. A thorough eye exam with close attention to blood pressure can be helpful to prevent a heart attack or stroke from happening due to undiagnosed elevated blood pressure.  

It is important to get your eyes checked regularly in order to assess your ocular as well as systemic health. Eye care specialists can detect a lot more than just visual problems. If you would like to speak with one of our eye care specialists today, please call 860-233-2020 to schedule an appointment today.  

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