High blood pressure is a common condition which affects roughly a quarter of adults in the UK. Untreated high blood pressure could cause a person to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. This is why medical professionals emphasise the importance of spotting the early warning signs and if your eyes look like this it could mean you’re at risk.
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Noticing red eyes after a night’s rest is normally not something to worry about.
However, if you are noticing your eyes are continually red and allergies are not to blame it could be a warning of something more sinister.
Bloodshot eyes may be a warning sign of hypertension.
High blood pressure is known to damage a person’s blood vessels which supply blood to the retina – the light-sensitive part of the eye – and this is known as hypertensive retinopathy.
What is hypertensive retinopathy?
The retina is the tissue layer located in the back of the eye.
This layer helps transform light into nerve signals which are sent to the brain for interpretation.
When a person’s blood pressure is too high, the retina’s blood vessel walls thicken, and this causes blood vessels to become narrow.
When this occurs, blood is restricted from reaching the retina and bloodshot eyes occur.
Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels thus limiting the retina’s function.
Added pressure is also placed on the optic nerve causing vision problems and this is known as hypertensive retinopathy.
A person won’t have any symptoms until the condition has progressed with possible warning signs including reduced vision, eye swelling, bursting of a blood vessel or double vision accompanied with headaches.
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Dr William White, an optometrist with Baylor Scott & White Health, said: “We can see changes in the eyes due to vascular conditions caused by diabetes or hypertension.
“The blood vessels in the retina can become a little more stiff and hardened.
“They’ll push on each other and cross, like two hoses in a confined space.
“When it gets really bad, we’ll see some of the blood vessels start to leak, we’ll see haemorrhaging and that can cause a whole range of vision issues.”
Doctors advise not to ignore chronic red eyes, since hypersensitive retinopathy typically occurs after blood pressure has remained high for some time.
Conditions which are known to raise a person’s risk for hypersensitive retinopathy include:
- Prolonged high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Heart disease
If you have noticed blood shot eyes that have not gone away, it’s important to speak with your GP about the possible cause.
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