The eyes aren’t just your windows to the world; to experienced eye doctors, they can also offer a view into your overall health. At The Eye Doctors, our optometrists don’t only examine your eyes for disease, they keep a careful watch for signs of other health problems, including those that can affect your heart.
In the interest of heart health, great vision, and total body wellness, our team at The Eye Doctors wanted to share some information about how an annual eye exam can actually be good for your heart.
How an Eye Exam Can Benefit Your Heart Health
An annual eye exam is one of the only opportunities for a doctor to actually see vital internal blood vessels and tissue without performing a biopsy or making any type of incision. A well-qualified eye doctor can determine many things about the quality of blood flow, circulation, and blood vessel health during an annual comprehensive exam.
Because we can easily evaluate the blood vessels of your eyes, we’re able to determine if your vessels are showing any signs of disease. If we happen upon a sign of vascular disease in your eyes, it may be an indicator that there’s an issue with your heart, brain, internal organs, or extremities.
Let’s explore some of the different types of health conditions that we can screen for during your eye exam:
High Blood Pressure
An eye doctor can tell many things about your cardiovascular system with a simple look in your eyes. One common condition that can be seen through the eyes is high blood pressure.
We recently used our V-Eye-P exam to detect a case of high blood pressure in a patient who was visiting us for their annual exam and new reading glasses. During the exam, we took comprehensive pictures of the patient’s eye and noticed something interesting. The conversation went something like this:
Doctor: “I’m noticing irregularities with some blood vessels in your retina. Do you take prescription medication for high blood pressure or hypertension?”
Patient: “No, I don’t.”
Doctor: “Should you be?”
Patient: “Well… yes, my doctor prescribed it to me, but I didn’t want to take it. I wasn’t convinced I actually needed it. Are you telling me you can tell that from looking at my eye for 5 seconds when I never mentioned any of that to you or your technicians?!”
Doctor: “It’s probably nothing to worry about as long as you start taking the medication you were prescribed. What concerns me are these vessels here that I’m pointing to on my screen. We’ll send these images, along with your exam notes to your primary care doctor.
Untreated and unaddressed high blood pressure can increase risk for heart attacks and strokes. 76 million adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, but approximately one in five don’t know about their condition. Luckily, high blood pressure can be detected early during your routine eye exam.
Diabetic Eye Care
Many of those with diabetes can attest that their endocrinologist and primary care provider are always reminding them to schedule an annual eye exam. That’s because eye exams can give great insight into complications with the disease.
“In some cases, diabetes causes the blood in our body to become thick like syrup, making it difficult to circulate blood to the parts of the body farthest from our hearts,” said Dr. Samual J. Teske, our TPA/DPA Certified Optometric Physician.
“Fortunately, our view of the eyes gives us a clear image of arteries, veins, and capillaries,” Dr. Teske said. “Using advanced technology, we can monitor and diagnose many potentially serious complications caused by diabetes, including heart problems.”
Eye doctors carefully evaluate those with diabetes for signs of diabetic retinopathy. This is when blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood glucose levels. If untreated, these blood vessels can become inflamed or even burst, leading to blindness.
Many diabetics may have diabetic retinopathy and not even know it, because it often displays no symptoms in its early stages. As diabetic retinopathy gets worse, you may notice symptoms such as:
- A large number of visual floaters
- Blurred vision
- Seeing dark spots or curtains in your vision
- Poor night vision
- Less vibrant colors
We can also detect high cholesterol in an eye exam. Because we can examine vessels in the eye, eye doctors can see very clearly if there are fatty cholesterol deposits present in the eye’s veins and arteries.
If present in the eye, these cholesterol deposits can also be present in the brain and other internal organs. Blockages from cholesterol can put you at risk for a stroke, heart attack, and more serious problems.
High cholesterol levels can also be determined by examining the cornea, the outer part of the eye. Eye doctors will check for a white or grey ring around the iris using a biomicroscope. These deposits, called arcus, can indicate high cholesterol.
Cholesterol deposits can also be seen as yellow fatty growths on and around the eyelids. Many cholesterol deposits found on the external parts of the eye are age-related and simply need to be monitored annually, but they can also be the sign of a greater problem.
Protecting Your Eyes & Overall Health at The Eye Doctors
At The Eye Doctors, we want you to live life with clear vision and healthy eyes — but we’re also here to ensure that you can take care of other vital body systems, including the heart and blood vessels. An annual eye exam with an optometrist who is outfitted with the latest technology can not only help you experience life with clear vision, but can also help make sure that you’re healthy overall.
To schedule an eye appointment to learn more about your vision and overall wellness, request an appointment today.