Hypertensive retinopathy

Definition of Hypertensive retinopathy

Hypertensive retinopathy is damage to theretina 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.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

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.


Most people with hypertensive retinopathy do not have symptoms until late in the disease.

Signs and tests

Using an instrument called an , your health care provider can see narrowing of blood vessels, and signs that fluid has leaked from blood vessels.


Controlling high blood pressure () is the only treatment for hypertensive retinopathy.

Expectations (prognosis)

Patients with grade 4 (severe hypertensive retinopathy) often have heart and kidney complications of high blood pressure. They are also at higher risk for stroke.


Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/31/2010

Hypertensive retinopathy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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