Shakespeare wrote that the eyes are the window to your soul. Thanks to retinal technology, your eyes can now provide a clear picture of your cardiovascular health as well.
The Connection Between Heart and Eye Problems
During a retinal eye exam, your eye doctor will evaluate the retina vasculature, a system of blood vessels that bring blood to the retina. Since retinal blood vessels are part of the vascular system, any irregularity in retina vasculature can indicate a problem with the cardiovascular system.
Not surprisingly, there is also a connection between diseases in the eye and cardiovascular conditions. For example, patients who have atherosclerosis, or cholesterol deposits in their arteries in the rest of their body, are also likely to have them in their retinal blood vessels. This can increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Can An Eye Exam Detect Conditions That Affect the Heart?
A comprehensive eye exam can reveal signs of diabetes and high blood pressure. Although diabetes often develops slowly, it starts to affect the blood vessels in the eyes early on.
Diabetes, a condition characterized by high blood sugar levels, damages blood vessels and cardiac nerves. It can also lead to diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss. A dilated eye exam allows your eye doctor to see your blood vessels closely and spot signs of retinal damage.
Tests for glaucoma, a sight-robbing condition caused by pressure inside the eye, can also indicate high blood pressure in the rest of the body. Hypertension, like glaucoma, shows no obvious symptoms in its early stages, and both conditions are often detected only through eye exams. If your eye doctor determines that the ratio and size of retinal vessels show high intraocular pressure, they may also recommend you visit a physician to test for hypertension.
How to Maintain Heart and Eye Health
The following tips can help you keep your eyes and cardiovascular system healthy:
- Stop Smoking
- Maintain a healthy target weight
- Check your lipid levels
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a diet rich in leafy greens, antioxidants and yellow or orange vegetables
- Monitor your blood pressure
- Know your medical family history
- Schedule comprehensive eye exams regularly
Have you had a comprehensive eye exam lately? Schedule an appointment with us at Southern Eyecare Associates in Norfolk to get a full picture of your eye health.
Q: Can heart problems cause dark circles under your eyes?
- A:Dark under-eye circles are more often a sign of a sleepless night or allergies than a serious health problem. But in some cases, under eye skin discoloration may indicate a heart or kidney problem. See your doctor if you are concerned about dark under-eye circles or other symptoms.
Q: Can smoking cause blurred vision?
- A:Smoking is responsible for a host of health problems and can also harm your vision. The toxic carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke can create a buildup of fat in retinal blood vessels and blur your vision. There is also a link between smoking and sight-robbing conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
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