High blood pressure continues to be a leading health risk factor for adults in the United States. While most adults are aware of the cardiac health risks of hypertension, few are familiar with the secondary health complications that can be equally as detrimental to the quality of life. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, is important to become familiar with the risks that are associated with this cardiac condition including the risk for developing glaucoma later in life.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in aging adults. Glaucoma, while easily diagnosed in adults, is often not diagnosed due to poor access to ophthalmology care. In fact, many adults are not even aware that glaucoma is a risk factor until there is a significant change in vision.
For adults with high blood pressure, there is a marked rise in the level of intraocular pressure as well. This is to say, the pressure in and around the eyes can be affected – leading to the development of glaucoma with age. If you suffer from high blood pressure, therefore, it is important to get frequent and regular ophthalmology examinations to determine if your intraocular pressure is normalized. When not normalized, the pressure in and around the eyes can lead to glaucoma and even blindness.
Testing for intraocular pressure is quite easy in the doctor’s office and simply involves blowing a puff of air into each eye. Before your ophthalmologist performs this test, be sure that your blood pressure health history is shared and possibly even checked. If the intraocular pressure is found to be high, then your doctor may want to evaluate your blood pressure for a possible connection.
Medications to control high blood pressure are effective at reducing intraocular eye pressure and, when needed, there are additional medications that can be used to further reduce the pressure around your eyes. In fact, prescription eye drops are often given to patients with marked eye pressure as a way to quickly alleviate the pressure around the eyes rather quickly. It will not, however, reduce high blood pressure so to ensure that your eyes are in optimal health, keep your blood pressure under control and manage your health as effectively as possible. In the long term, your cardiovascular system will be healthy and your vision will be preserved for as long as possible – reducing the risk for glaucoma with aging.
Sources: American Journal of Ophthalmology 1998;126: 487-496.