The Cleveland Clinic

Hypertension: High Blood Pressure and Eye Disease

In addition to causing heart and kidney problems, untreated hypertension can also affect your eyesight. Hypertension can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the area at the back of the eye where images focus. This condition is known as hypertensive retinopathy. The damage can be serious if hypertension is not treated.

What Are the Symptoms of Hypertensive Retinopathy?

Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Vision problems

How Is Hypertensive Retinopathy Diagnosed?

An eye care professional can diagnose hypertensive retinopathy. The professional will use an ophthalmoscope, an instrument that projects light, to examine the back of your eyeball. Signs of retinopathy include:

  • Narrowing of blood vessels
  • Fluid oozing from the blood vessels
  • Spots on the retina known as cotton wool spots and hard exudates
  • Swelling of the macula and optic nerve
  • Bleeding in the back of the eye