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High systolic BP affects your retina and may lead to complete vision loss

Constant fluctuations in the systolic pressure can lead to many major eye complications.

Aug 28, 2018, 02.11 PM IST
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Hypertension has been a part of our dinner-table conversation for quite some time now. And many of us know that hypertension is defined as a systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 140 mm Hg or more, or a diastolic blood pressure (DBP) of 90 mm Hg or more. A reading of 140/90 or higher is considered high blood pressure that requires medical intervention.

While both systolic blood pressure (first number) and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) are important, till recently the focus was more on the diastolic blood pressure number. However, in the past few years, research has emerged that the systolic number is equally important. Constant fluctuations in the systolic pressure can lead to many major eye complications. In fact, patients who suffer from continuous high systolic blood pressure are 280% more prone to developing severe eye conditions like Central Retinal Vein Occlusion, a condition wherein the central vision is affected leading to loss of sight, than people with high diastolic blood pressure. Also, most of the complications that arise due to constant high systolic blood pressure do not show any symptoms unless severe. It is usually discovered during a routine eye exam or is characterised by sudden loss of vision making it a silent killer.

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WHO IS AT RISK of developing high systolic blood pressure-related eye complications?

Any patient who is having systemic hypertension for a long time is at risk of developing changes in the health of the eye. The risk of damage is higher when you have diabetes, high cholesterol level or if you smoke.

WHAT ARE the eye conditions that occur due to high systolic blood pressure?

High systolic blood pressure largely affects the retina and one of the most common conditions that occur due to high systolic blood pressure is Retinal Venous Occlusion.

Also known as eye stroke, retinal venous occlusion is one the leading causes of vision loss worldwide. As the name indicates, it affects the retina. Retina helps convert light and images into nerve signals and sends them to your brain via the optic nerve. In Retinal Venous Occlusions, the vein in the eye is blocked and causes build-up of fluid and blood in the retina impairing the retina’s ability to filter light and the patient’s ability to see. Based on where the occlusion occurs, Retinal Venous Occlusion is classified into two types, namely Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion and Central Retinal Vein Occlusion.

- In Branch Retinal Vein Occlusion, the branches of the retinal vein get blocked damaging the eye.

- Central Retinal Vein Occlusion is closure of the central retinal vein, located at the optic nerve which collects all the blood after it passes through the capillaries.

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WHAT ARE the symptoms of Retinal Venous Occlusion? A person typically won't experience symptoms of hypertensive eye disease unless severe; it is usually discovered during a routine eye exam. However, some of the commonly seen indicators are:

- Sudden pain in the eye

- At times, patient may also experience sudden loss of vision without any pain

- Appearance of dark spots or floaters

HOW CAN the condition be treated?

Treatment modalities like laser therapy and intravitreal injection have shown positive results in treating the condition.

WHAT CAN we do to prevent the impact of continuous high systolic blood pressure?

While controlling blood pressure is the key, bringing about a few modifications in lifestyle can go a long way in keeping blood pressure under control and thereby its impact on the eyes. Some of the aspects that should be adopted are:

- Avoid binge eating, especially junk foods and processed foods as they are high in sodium or salt content. Salt can upset the normal balance of sodium in your body. This leads to fluid retention and increases your blood pressure. Maintain a nutritious and balanced diet.

- Make exercise a part of your daily routine — be it jogging, walking or hitting the gym, take time and incorporate exercise in your daily routine.

- Reducing or quitting smoking can not only have a positive impact on hypertension but can also improve the health of all your organs.

These tips can go a long way in avoiding unnecessary visits to the eye doctor and also improve your overall well-being.

The writer is Head of Medical Services at Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospitals, Bengaluru.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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