Consideration of hypertensive retinopathy as an important end-organ damage in patients with hypertension

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Abstract

Longstanding and therapy-resistant hypertension may cause cerebral, renal, cardiac and retinal end-organ damage (EOD). Retinal hypertensive abnormalities are correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular (CV) disease in general but are not included in CV risk assessment tools. Research into prevalence and determinants of retinal organ damage, such as hypertensive retinopathy (HR), is scarce. We evaluated the prevalence of HR and the association with other signs of EOD in patients with hypertension. A retrospective observational study was performed in all hypertensive patients referred by a general practitioner to the hypertension clinic at the Diakonessenhuis, Utrecht and Zeist, the Netherlands between 2011 and 2013. A screening of risk factors, albuminuria, left-ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and retinal fundoscopy was performed. In all, 44% (123/280) of patients referred to the clinic were diagnosed with HR, while 15 and 11% were diagnosed with LVH and microalbuminuria, respectively. Patients with isolated HR consisted of 31% of all patients. When HR was added as a form of EOD, the percentage of patients with a treatment indication increased from 3 to 14%. Patients who were already on treatment goal exhibited a high prevalence of HR (28%), warranting treatment intensification. HR is prevalent in a third of hypertensive patients referred to our clinic, and isolated HR accounts for the majority of (end-) organ damages. Fundoscopy in the evaluation of hypertension might improve the indication for therapy. Furthermore, diagnosing HR could be helpful in selecting patients with hypertension on treatment goal in need of more aggressive treatment.

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