High blood pressure: NHS doctor explains causes
Eyes are known as a “window to the soul”, but they can also give us some clues as to our health.
Having bloodshot eyes is an example of this. While they could just be an indicator of tiredness or an allergy, they can signal something far more serious.
Health bodies warn that bloodshot eyes are one symptom of having high blood pressure.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure means your heart is working harder than usual to pump blood around the body.
Over time this can cause damage to the blood vessels and vital organs.
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For this reason it can lead to potentially fatal medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes – earning it a reputation as a “silent killer”.
Many people do not experience symptoms from having high blood pressure, making it all the more deadly.
However, if left untreated for a long period of time it can cause some tell-tale signs.
The American Heart Association (AHA) explains: “Vision symptoms may not show up for years.
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“But ultimately, high blood pressure can result in hypertensive retinopathy, blood vessel damage causing blurred vision or loss of sight.”
Bloodshot eyes are an indicator of hypetensive retinopathy as it can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst.
Speaking to the AHA, optometrist Doctor William White, explained: “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 some haemorrhaging. And that can cause a whole range of vision issues.”
Experiencing hypertensive retinopathy could also make you more vulnerable to the risks that come with high blood pressure.
One scientific study, published in Hypertension journal in 2013, found that among 2,900 participants with high blood pressure, those with a “mild” form of hypertensive retinopathy had a 35 percent increased risk for stroke.
And those with “moderate or severe” hypertensive retinopathy had a 137 percent higher risk.
According to the British Heart Foundation, other possible signs of hypertension include:
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
If you experience symptoms or are concerned about your blood pressure you should speak to your GP.
You are more at risk of having high blood pressure if you are overweight, smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, are over 65, don’t exercise enough, don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables, or have a relative with high blood pressure.
Eating too much salt in your diet is also a major cause of hypertension.
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