How does hypertension affect your eyes?

J Hum Hypertens. 2012 Feb;26(2):71-83. doi: 10.1038/jhh.2011.37. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


Hypertension has profound effects on various parts of the eye. Classically, elevated blood pressure results in a series of retinal microvascular changes called hypertensive retinopathy, comprising of generalized and focal retinal arteriolar narrowing, arteriovenous nicking, retinal hemorrhages, microaneurysms and, in severe cases, optic disc and macular edema. Studies have shown that mild hypertensive retinopathy signs are common and seen in nearly 10% of the general adult non-diabetic population. Hypertensive retinopathy signs are associated with other indicators of end-organ damage (for example, left ventricular hypertrophy, renal impairment) and may be a risk marker of future clinical events, such as stroke, congestive heart failure and cardiovascular mortality. Furthermore, hypertension is one of the major risk factors for development and progression of diabetic retinopathy, and control of blood pressure has been shown in large clinical trials to prevent visual loss from diabetic retinopathy. In addition, several retinal diseases such as retinal vascular occlusion (artery and vein occlusion), retinal arteriolar emboli, macroaneurysm, ischemic optic neuropathy and age-related macular degeneration may also be related to hypertension; however, there is as yet no evidence that treatment of hypertension prevents vision loss from these conditions. In management of patients with hypertension, physicians should be aware of the full spectrum of the relationship of blood pressure and the eye.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure* / drug effects
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / physiopathology
  • Eye / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Hypertension / drug therapy
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertensive Retinopathy / etiology
  • Hypertensive Retinopathy / physiopathology
  • Microcirculation* / drug effects
  • Retinal Diseases / etiology*
  • Retinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Retinal Vessels / drug effects
  • Retinal Vessels / physiopathology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Antihypertensive Agents