Another Major Risk Factor For Macular Degeneration

My father-in-law who has wet macular degeneration has been on high blood pressure medication for years. Even though it is under control with medication, Dr. Michael A. Samuel the author of Macular Degeneration: A Complete Guide for Patients and Their Families writes,

“If you have high blood pressure that is fairly well controlled, you have double the risk of wet AMD compared to someone who does not have hypertension at all. If you have uncontrolled high blood pressure that goes above 160/90 you are three times more likely to develop wet AMD.” (Ophthalmology 2003;110: 636-643).

Macular Degeneration Risk Factor

Arteries are made of muscle and elastic-like tissue. High blood pressure causes the arteries to stretch to accommodate the higher blood flow. When the arteries are constantly overly stretched the blood vessel walls get damaged.

This leads to tiny tears in the lining of the blood vessel. The tears then cause scar tissue to develop in the walls of arteries and veins. The Americal Heart Association describes it this way:

"These tears and the scar tissue are like nets, and can catch debris such as cholesterol, plaque or blood cells traveling in the bloodstream."

Overtime, hypertension causes artery walls to thicken and harden and to lose their elasticity. As cholesterol or plaque builds up the vessels become more narrow and blood flow is impeded.

The Choroid Layer

Which brings us to why our eyes and the macula (the tiny spot in the middle of the retina) are affected. Getting enough oxygen and important nutrients to the eyes and especially to the retina requires healthy arteries and capillaries (tiny blood vessels).

The choroid is a layer of the retina made up mostly of blood vessels and capillaries. The capillary layer is called the choriocapillaris. It plays a very important role in our eye health by nourishing the back of the eye, the photorecptor cells, with oxygen and nutrients. It is the only source of blood to the macula. If there is an impairment of these blood vessels, macular degeneration can develop.

To better understand your blood pressure readings, causes of high blood pressure or how to lower your blood pressure go to:

Blood Pressure Readings

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Leslie Degner, RN, BSN

Better Health for Better Vision