The following conditions can be caused or worsened by high blood pressure:
Impotence -- High blood pressure can make it difficult for some men to have erections. In addition, the medications used to treat high blood pressure can cause this problem. Changing the drug generally helps. This is not always the case, however, since blood vessels in the penis are often damaged or narrowed from the high blood pressure. There are options to restore sexual function -- talk to your doctor about those possibilities and never stop your medication on your own.
Mental problems -- Untreated, ongoing chronic high blood pressure can reduce short-term memory and mental abilities. Fortunately, controlling blood pressure with medications can reduce or even prevent memory loss and mental decline due to high blood pressure. (High blood pressure drugs may even help protect against Alzheimer's in people with genetic susceptibility to this disease.)
Bone loss -- High blood pressure increases the elimination of calcium in urine. This may lead to loss of bone mineral density, a significant risk factor for osteoporosis and fractures, especially in elderly women. It is not clear whether this effect occurs in men or in non-Caucasian women.
Blurred vision and blindness -- High blood pressure weakens and damages blood vessels. The blood vessels in the back of the eye may bulge out (these are called aneurysms) or even rupture (hemorrhage), causing bleeding into the eye. The condition is called retinopathy. The initial symptom of retinopathy is blurred vision. In time, retinopathy can lead to blindness. Your doctor may see bleeding or other changes to the back of your eye before you notice any problem. Therefore, regular eye exams are important.
Review Date: June 3, 2003
Reviewed By: Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine,
Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor,
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