Thursday, February 14, 2013

To Protect your heart "Get an Eye Exam!"

A great segment aired recently on Good Morning America titled "Get An Eye Exam: Arthritis to Cancer Seen in Eye".  If you didn't catch the segment, click here to see the video and read the related article.

Doctors have known for a long time that dozens of diseases show up in the eyes, often early enough to do something about them. And its not just eye diseases.  Many systemic diseases show up in the eyes first  like cancer, tumors, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and heart disease. Even mental health issues like dementia and Alzheimer's disease are connected to eye health and vision. That's not even the complete list.  Studies have shown that eye exams are often the first to detect chronic diseases. That's why getting an eye exam is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.

One of the reasons so many diseases can be diagnosed from an eye exam is that the eye is a window to the rest of the body.  An eye exam is the only non-invasive way for a doctor to look at the condition of your blood vessels.  Using standard ophthalmic equipment, the doctor looks through the iris of your eye and can see the blood vessels at the back of your eye.  If there are problems in your body, chances are that they will show up in those blood vessels.

For example, recent research as shown that an imaging scan of the blood vessels in the retina, which is at the back of the eye, can potentially save thousands of lives by predicting who is at imminent risk of a heart attack.  The scan fast enough that it can be done by your optometrist during a routine eye examination.

The BC Doctors of Optometry blog recently featured a story on the eye-heart connection.  That article talked about two different ways that cardiovascular problems can show up in blood vessels and around the eyelids:

In patients who have cholesterol build up in larger arteries, it is possible for small pieces of plaque to break off and travel through the blood stream into the eye (these are called emboli). The emboli can get stuck in the small blood vessels and cause a blockage.
The particular signs mentioned in a New York Times article are called xanthelasma. These are elevated patches around the eyelids due to fatty deposits under the skin. These are usually considered to be benign but, as the article mentions, recent studies have shown a link to higher rates of heart disease.
Here are some public service announcements form the BC Doctors of Optometry that get the message out.

Eye exams for adults

  This video features Vision Source Vancouver optometrist, Dr. Mini Randhawa:

Eye exam saves a life

Chidlren's eye exams

Eye exam finds glaucoma