High blood pressure is unsettling because the symptoms rarely reveal themselves until it is serious, leaving many ill-prepared to deal with the risks associated. Often branded the “silent killer”, one in four people in the UK live with high blood pressure, although most will not realise it. If untreated, a high bp reading can can lead to serious health complications such heart attacks and strokes. Occasionally, however, a very high blood pressure or a rapidly rising reading can show sudden and acute symptoms in the eyes.
The narrow, delicate blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes can become damaged by a surging bp.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are three ways a spike in blood pressure can damage the eyes, these include:
-Eye blood vessel damage (retinopathy). High blood pressure can damage the vessels supplying blood to your retina, causing retinopathy. This condition can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision and complete loss of vision. If you also have both diabetes and high blood pressure, you’re at an even greater risk.
-Fluid buildup under the retina (choroidopathy). In this condition, fluid builds up under your retina because of a leaky blood vessel in a layer of blood vessels located under the retina. Choroidopathy (kor-oid-OP-uh-thee) can result in distorted vision or in some cases scarring that impairs vision.
-Nerve damage (optic neuropathy). This is a condition in which blocked blood flow damages the optic nerve. It can kill nerve cells in your eyes, which may cause bleeding within your eye or vision loss.
Another pronounced symptom is sexual dysfunction. The healthy body explained: “Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of your blood vessels and causes your arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis), limiting blood flow.
“This means less blood is able to flow to your penis. For some men, the decreased blood flow makes it difficult to achieve and maintain erections — often referred to as erectile dysfunction.”
High blood pressure can can also affect other areas of the body, it said, including:
- Bone loss. High blood pressure can increase the amount of calcium that’s in s person’s urine. That excessive elimination of calcium may lead to loss of bone density (osteoporosis), which in turn can lead to broken bones. The risk is especially increased in older women.
- Obstructive sleep apnea — a condition in which your throat muscles relax causing you to snore loudly — occurs in more than half of those with high blood pressure. It’s now thought that high blood pressure itself may help trigger sleep apnea. Also, sleep deprivation resulting from sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
High blood pressure is largely preventable and controllable if people make healthy adjustments to their lifestyle. The NHS recommends the following changes to lower a bp reading:
- Reduce the amount of salt you eat and have a generally healthy diet
- Cut back on alcohol
- Lose weight if you’re overweight
- Exercise regularly
- Cut down on caffeine
- Stop smoking
- Try to get at least six hours of sleep a night
According to the British Heart Foundation, a normal blood pressure reading should be below 140/90. The only way a person can assess whether their blood pressure reading is too high is to have it measured. Blood pressure can be measured at a number of places, including:
- At a GP surgery
- At some pharmacies
- As part of your NHS Health Check
- In some workplaces
You can also check your blood pressure yourself with a home blood pressure monitor.
All adults over 40 are advised to have their blood pressure checked at least every five years. According to the BHF: “In England, adults aged 40–74 can get a free NHS Health Check via their GP (and at some pharmacies). There are similar schemes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”
According to Bupa, further tests may be required to assess if any damage has been done to vital organs or the risk of damage has increased. The health body explained: “They will ask about your family’s medical history, what medicines you take, and any physical changes you’ve noticed, such as muscle spasms or urinating more often. Information about your general health, weight, diet, exercise and drinking habits helps your GP make a diagnosis too.”
They may want to carry out:
- A urine test – to check for protein in your urine that could be a sign of kidney damage
- A blood test – to check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) – to check how your heart is working
- An eye test – to check for problems like bleeding and swelling in or behind your eyes
If a person’s blood pressure is very high – over 180/110mmHg – or their GP suspects it’s caused by a serious condition, they may be referred for specialist tests.
Medication may be required to lower a bp reading. The type of medicine recommended will depend on things like how high a person’s blood pressure is, their age and ethnicity.