How Eye Exams Can Detect High Blood Pressure

How Eye Exams Can Detect High Blood Pressure

Optometrists can detect more than just vision problems; your optometrist can learn a lot about your health by looking at your eyes. When you go for an eye exam, your optometrist looks at the delicate arteries and structures within your eyes to determine eye health. Any leaks in the arteries or other damage to components of the eyes indicate the development of eye conditions, but these conditions are commonly triggered by other health conditions in the body. High blood pressure can present symptoms in the eyes, and if your optometrist sees an indication of damage caused by high blood pressure, they may recommend you see your doctor for further assessment.

High Blood Pressure And Eye Exams

Hypertensive Retinopathy
This condition develops when a person has prolonged high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is often caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that causes the heart to pump harder for blood to circulate. As the blood moves through the body at a higher pressure, this damages the small, delicate arteries in the eye and it can cause these to leak. Hypertensive retinopathy can also cause the optic disk to become enlarged and it can cause vision issues. If you don’t receive regular eye exams and hypertensive retinopathy has started developing, you may notice a change in your vision and vision blurriness caused by this condition is permanent.

Diagnosing High Blood Pressure During An Eye Exam
When an optometrist looks into your eye using manual tests, retinal imaging, and OCT scans, they can see all of the small details within your eye. Because of this, your optometrists can see the early signs of conditions such as hypertensive retinopathy and they can detect these conditions before symptoms start to develop. If your eye doctor sees that there is something wrong with the health of your eye, they might recommend you visit your general practice physician, as various eye conditions can appear similar during an eye exam. For example, both diabetic retinopathy and hypertensive retinopathy can cause bleeding in the arteries in your eyes even though they are caused by two different health conditions. If your eye doctor suspects any type of medical issue when they administer your eye exam, they will likely request that you get blood work done and inform them of the results. This will allow your optometrist to move forward with proper treatment for your eye condition.

Detecting early signs of hypertensive retinopathy is very important for your eye health and your overall health, as many people who don’t regularly receive optometrist or doctor check-ups may not know they have high blood pressure until their eyesight begins to suffer or they have severe health complications such as heart attacks.

Protect Your Health With Annual Eye Exams

Visiting the optometrist for regular eye exams helps to protect your vision as well as your general health. Hypertensive retinopathy isn’t the only health condition your optometrist may be able to detect. Regular eye exams allow for the early detection of a variety of eye conditions that can lead to permanent vision impairment unless addressed early. Regular eye exams are an important part of health care that should be scheduled at least every 2 years for adults between the ages of 19 and 64 and every year for adults 65 and over. If you have a history of high blood pressure, you should receive an eye exam every year. To book an eye exam, contact Specs in the City at 1-403-252-2020 or fill out the online contact form.

Q: How can I prevent hypertensive retinopathy?
A: The best way to prevent this condition and to stop or slow its progression is to control your blood pressure. You, your doctor, and your optometrist can work together to develop a blood pressure management plan that might involve lifestyle changes (particularly changes in diet, exercise, and smoking) and you may be put on blood thinners.

Q: What factors increase my risk of developing hypertensive retinopathy?
A: Several risk factors for developing high blood pressure and subsequent hypertensive retinopathy include:

  • Family history of heart disease.
  • Prolonged high blood pressure.
  • Atherosclerosis.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.
  • Excess alcohol consumption.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • A diet high in fat proteins, trans fats, sugary foods, and sodium.

Q: Is there anything I need to bring to an eye exam?
A: Once you’ve booked your eye exam there are a few things you can bring to better help us ensure your eye care needs are met. They are:

  • All prescription glasses, sunglasses, or contact lenses you’re currently using.
  • All eye drops you’re currently using.


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