Hypertension and the Eye, Operation Transformation

A lot of people may not realise that high blood pressure can damage the eye and that signs may be visible in the eye before the patient is aware of any symptoms; however, the team behind the show Operation Transformation were keen to highlight this and approached the Association of Optometrists Ireland for an expert to discuss this.

As explained by Martin O’Brien FCOptom. (Chair of Professional Services, Association of Optometrists Ireland) in an interview for the show, “the back of the eye is the only place in the body where the blood vessels, the arteries and veins can be seen in their natural state; as part of the eye-examination we can look inside the eye and check if there are any signs of damage. Things like high blood pressure can cause changes to the blood vessels that can be seen by the optometrist. Increasingly, we are seeing people in the chair who have signs of high blood pressure in the eye and do not know it themselves. If we find something that doesn’t look right, a visit to your GP is a good idea. Untreated or unmanaged high blood pressure can lead to blindness if a blood vessel bursts in the eye. One of the other interesting things that is on the rise is the increase in people showing up with some signs of damage in their eyes who have already been diagnosed by their GP. The problem is that if you do not follow your GP’s advice you could potentially be putting your health and sight at risk.” For more on the damage done by high blood pressure in the eye click here.

The comedian Dara O’Brian, in his book, ‘Tickling the English’ recounts just such an experience- attending for an eye examination and being advised to see his GP. With some simple lifestyle changes Dara was able to manage the blood pressure without needing medication. So people do not need to fear that if something is found in the eye examination, that it automatically means having to start taking tablets or medication.

The camera crew spent some time with Martin and recorded the process of an eye-examination, along with the interview and the production team were very impressed with the digital fundus photography equipment that allows an optometrist to take a picture of the back of your eye. It is important to be aware that the eye examination is not just something needed to buy glasses, but an important part of people’s health care routine.

·80% of the Irish population is entitled to a free eye examination under medical card / PRSI schemes.

· An eye-examination will include the optometrist looking inside your eye, the only place in your body where arteries and veins can be seen.

·People who are not taking care of or managing their high blood pressure properly are at risk of sight loss.

If you want to speak to an optometrist about high blood pressure and your eye, or any other eye-care matter; contact your local practice. If you have not had your eyes tested before, see the find a practice section on the AOI homepage.

A lot of health conditions can have effects in the eye not just high blood pressure including- diabetes, thyroid disease, MS, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. In addition the normal ageing process increases the risk of things like cataract and AMD along with normal sight changes where glasses may be needed for the first time for reading or driving. Your local optometrist is the place to go for vision correction and advice on visual health and care for your eyes.

Sourced from: Martin O’Brien FCOptom. (Chair of Professional Services, Association of Optometrists Ireland)

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