Hypertension

Updated 07 July 2014

Hypertension and other organs

Hypertension can affect more than your heart – it can take a toll on other vital parts of your body. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do.

Hypertension can affect more than your heart – it can take a toll on other vital parts of your body. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do.

Hypertension and your eyes

You may not be able to detect any outward signs of hypertension in yourself, but your doctor can look into your eyes and see whether hypertension has damaged them.

A brief period of very high blood pressure can cause some loss of visual clarity which generally subsides once the blood pressure level returns to normal. How does it happen?

Hypertension can damage the eyes in a number of ways:

  • It leads to narrowing of the arteries and can result in complete blockage, which can cause loss of vision;
  • It can also lead to damage to the blood vessels in the outside of the eyes, leading to bleeding. This usually clears up once the hypertension itself is treated.

So while the eye isn’t affected as badly as say, the brain or the heart, it can give useful clues into the state of your health. Your doctor may be able to draw important conclusions about whether you have hypertension simply by looking into your eyes.

Hypertension and your kidneys

Your kidneys play a vital role in your body, ridding it of toxins and helping to control fluid levels. Consistently elevated blood pressure levels can lead to damage of the arteries in the body – they become thickened and narrowed. This reduces oxygen supply to the kidneys. It’s ironic that kidney damage itself leads to hypertension.

Hypertension and your heart

Hypertension causes your heart to work much harder than it should because it has to compensate for the increased blood pressure. Like any muscle that increases in size with use, the heart increases in size. Left untreated, this eventually leads to the left ventricle of the heart increasing in size, which will ultimately lead to congestive heart failure. This combined with arteriosclerosis, leads to ischaemic heart disease.

Hypertension and your blood vessels

Your blood vessels are meant to be flexible and supple, but hypertension eventually curtails this. Like a rubber band that’s permanently stretched, they lose this elasticity. They then develop arteriosclerosis and become clogged, or they can rupture.

Hypertension and your brain

One serious consequence of the damage wrought on your arteries by hypertension is the possibility of a stroke. This can happen in two ways: firstly, a blood clot may form in an artery, cutting off part of the brain from oxygenated blood. This is known as a thrombotic stroke. The second type occurs when the increased pressure and decreased artery flexibility cause a blood vessel to burst – this is known as a haemorragic stroke.

Read more:
Resistant Hypertension
 

 

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Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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