Our Eyes Do More Than See

The eyes do more than allow us to see; they also have something to say.  In fact, certain conditions observed in the eye during routine eye exams could indicate underlying health problems.

How exactly? The arrangement of blood vessels at the back of the eye, also known as the retina vasculature, is closely connected to the health of your heart. And by observing the health of the retina vasculature during a routine eye exam you can determine if there are any signs of potential health issues with your heart or the blood vessels in your body.

Surprisingly, complete eye exams can potentially reveal over 13 serious health conditions. Through examination of both the outside and inside of your eyes, testing the pupil reflexes, the lens of your eye, the retina, and the optic nerve, just a few of the serious health conditions which could potentially be detected include:

Heart disease: Because the health of your eye is connected to the health of your heart, eye exams can detect a number of cardiovascular conditions, including clogged arteries, often before the patient even knows there’s a problem.  Little plaque deposits inside the eye that have broken away from buildup on the carotid artery, which supplies most of the blood supply to the brain. They can cause a stroke if they reach the brain. If you do have signs of plaques, an ophthalmologist will order imaging or send you to your primary care doctor.

And, while diagnostic methods are still being studied, your eyes can also display evidence of ischemia – decreased blood flow due to heart disease.

High blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, this happens when the force of blood against an artery wall is too high. In the eye, high blood pressure can cause retinopathy, or damage to the eye’s main blood supply. This can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision, swelling, blood clots, damage to the nerve or even stroke in the retina with complete loss of vision.

Eye doctors can look at the state of our eye’s blood vessels and determine whether there is evidence of high blood pressure or even diabetes without using a blood pressure cuff.

Blocked arteries: Hypertension isn’t the only heart-related ailment that can be detected in the eye. If there is a small emboli in the eye, they can be coming either from an arteriosclerotic plaque in the carotid artery, which is the main artery that brings blood to the head and neck, or they can come from emboli in the heart.

Diabetes: is also an ailment that is commonly diagnosed through an eye exam. But because diabetes can have a slow onset, people may not have seen any obvious clues. This disease is sneaky. Patients may show no symptoms and have perfect vision, and an eye doctor will find signs indicating underlying diabetes.  Optometrists are often the first to detect diabetes by observing diabetic retinopathy in patients who weren’t even aware that they were diabetic.

While it is important to safeguard our eyesight throughout our lives for the sake of protecting one of our most important senses, it is also important to regularly monitor our eyesight as it could potentially be an indicator of health issues including heart health.

Stay safe & be well,


Build a Heart. Save a life.

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