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Hypertensive retinopathy

Hypertensive retinopathy


Hypertensive retinopathy is damage to the retinal vessels caused by high blood pressure. The retina is the membrane that lines the back of the eye. It transforms the beam of light into an electrical signal so that it can be sent to the brain.



Hypertensive retinopathy can be caused by acute hypertension (e.g. acute urinary retention, intense pain, cocaine or amphetamine use) or chronic hypertension.

Hypertension damages the vessels of the retina, causing a thickening of their walls and a reduction in blood supply.



Most patients with hypertensive retinopathy are asymptomatic. However, some patients complain of reduced visual acuity.

The main complications are ocular haemorrhage and occlusion of blood vessels, which can lead to permanent loss of vision.  



The ophthalmologist carries out an examination called a fundus to visualise the retina. This examination will show whether the blood vessels in the retina have been damaged by high blood pressure.

Screening for hypertensive retinopathy is recommended for anyone with high blood pressure, particularly at the time of diagnosis and then on a regular basis, depending on the progression of the patient's high blood pressure and symptoms.



The only treatment for hypertensive retinopathy is blood pressure control using antihypertensive drugs combined with a healthy lifestyle. In the event of a hypertensive crisis, urgent treatment is required to prevent complications affecting the eye and other organs.



The prevalence of hypertensive retinopathy is estimated at between 2% and 17% of the non-diabetic population. It is more common in the elderly, who are more often affected by high blood pressure.



To prevent hypertensive retinopathy, it is important to control high blood pressure through a healthy lifestyle and, if recommended, by taking appropriate antihypertensive medication. Prevention includes a balanced diet low in salt, regular exercise and stopping smoking. Regular blood pressure checks by your GP are also recommended, as even mild chronic hypertension can damage the blood vessels in the retina over time.





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