Hypertensive retinopathy is damage to the retina from high blood pressure. The retina is the layer of tissue at the back part of the eye. It changes light and images that enter the eye into nerve signals that are sent to the brain.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the retina. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it has been high, the more severe the damage is likely to be.
When you have diabetes, high cholesterol levels, or you smoke, you have a higher risk of damage and vision loss.
Rarely, blood pressure readings suddenly become very high. Sometimes, the sudden rise in blood pressure can cause more severe changes in the eye.
Other problems with the retina are also more likely to occur, such as:
Klig JE. Ophthalmologic complications of systemic disease. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2008;26(1):217-231.
Rogers AH. Hypertensive retinopathy. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 6.15.
Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.