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What Your Eyes Could Tell You About Your Heart (& More)

Did you know that the back of the eyes are the only place on the human body in which blood vessels can be visually observed? And how healthy your eyes’ blood vessels are can be a critical—and even lifesaving—indicator of how healthy the rest of your body’s blood vessels may be.

As a result, by examining the interior and back of your eyes, an ophthalmologist can detect damage that may be linked to heart disease or other serious medical problems.

For example, a man went to an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam. Dilating the man’s eyes allowed the eye doctor to clearly observe the retina, optic nerve, macula, and blood vessels within his eyes. He detected hypertensive retinopathy, which is damage to the retina as a result of high blood pressure.

Based on this evidence of high blood pressure, the ophthalmologist recommended the man be evaluated by a primary care doctor. It turns out that he did indeed have dangerously high blood pressure. He was at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke—not to mention further damage to his eyes—if his blood pressure was left untreated.

Medical Conditions Your Eyes Can Reveal

Examples of ophthalmologists detecting serious medical conditions—often when patients are experiencing no health symptoms or problems with their eyesight—are not rare.

Another example is of how an eye exam detected a major blood clot that was blocking 98% of a patient’s carotid artery. As far as he knew, the man had been the picture of health, but he would have most likely had a serious stroke had the clot not been detected.

So, it’s no exaggeration to say that a comprehensive eye exam can save not just your eyesight, but also your life. Here are some of the medical conditions and diseases that an eye exam can detect:

  • Blood clots, or carotid artery disease, raising the risk of a stroke.
  • High blood pressure, raising the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Diabetes, detected by damaged retinal blood vessels.
  • Brain tumors, detected by optic nerve swelling or peripheral vision loss.
  • High cholesterol, resulting in plaques in the blood vessels of the retina.
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus, that may cause eye inflammation.
  • Thyroid disease, seen by inflamed, bulging or protruding eyes or vision changes.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, syphilis, and herpes.

In addition, ophthalmologists can detect eye diseases which can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, or common eye conditions like cataracts.

Early detection, through a comprehensive exam that includes eye dilation, of these medical conditions or eye diseases before they have a chance to progress can not only save your eyesight, it can potentially also save your life. Maintaining annual comprehensive eye exams is one of the most proactive steps you can take for your vision and your overall health.

So this Valentine’s Day and beyond, listen to what your eyes might have to say about your heart and your health by scheduling an eye exam with one of our ophthalmologists at Baptist Eye Surgeons.

Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN, dedicated to providing quality eye care to patients whose needs range from routine comprehensive eye examinations to serious eye diseases or complex surgeries. To meet our doctors and learn more about our specialities, visit our website, or give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information, or schedule an appointment online.

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