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.
You have a higher risk of damage and vision loss when you have diabetes, high cholesterol level, or you smoke.
Rarely, blood pressure readings suddenly become very high, but when they do, it can cause severe changes in the eye.
Other problems with the retina are also more likely, such as:
Rogers AH. Hypertensive retinopathy. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 4th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 6.17.
Walsh JB, Rosen RB, Berinstein DM. Systemic hypertension and the eye. In: Tasman W, Jaeger EA, eds. Duane's Ophthalmology. 2013 ed. Philadelphia, PA Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2012:vol 3, chap 13.
Franklin W. Lusby, MD, ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.