Dr. Herron is an eye doctor, but did you know that she views each patient as more than just a pair of eyes? Often called “the window of the soul,” your eyes also provide valuable insight into your overall health, including early signs of heart disease. In fact, Dr. Herron or Dr. Matzkin may notice signs of cardiac problems before you are even aware that anything is wrong.
How the Eyes Expose the Heart
High blood pressure (hypertension), hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and other cardiac problems cause changes in the blood vessels located at the back of the eye. When this retinal vasculature is disturbed by heart disease, these changes are visible to your eye doctor during a comprehensive eye exam.
Which heart conditions cause visible changes within the eye?
Most common heart problems can lead to eye damage, and certain eye changes are associated with an increased risk of cardiac issues. These changes include narrow or blocked blood vessels in the retina, a swollen optic nerve, and various kinds of hemorrhages and spots. Some of the cardiac diseases that leave visible signs during a comprehensive eye exam include:
- Bacterial endocarditis
- Cerebral aneurysm
Left untreated, cardiac-related eye damage can lead to retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma and full or partial loss of vision. Early detection and treatment are key to preserving your heart and eye health.
How to Care for Your Eyes and Your Heart
It’s clear that the same disease processes that lead to cardiac problems can also affect your eyes. Fortunately, these shared processes and risk factors benefit from many of the same therapies. The same good habits that protect your overall health are also excellent for your eyes and heart. Adapting the following habits can help prevent or slow down cardiac-related eye problems. Try to:
- Eat a diet rich in leafy greens and cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, sardines).
- Stop smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Have regular exams with your primary care doctor, eye doctor and cardiologist.
- Learn your family’s health history.
As you’ve seen, serious cardiac conditions can hide behind clear vision. This is one of many reasons that it’s important to schedule regular comprehensive eye exams at Allied Eye. In addition to routine eye exams, our one-stop shop offers cataract surgery with multifocal implants, diabetic eye exams, LASIK, treatment for dry/watery eyes, and so much more. We even have our Allied Optical Shop inside our facility for your convenience. Call or text us to learn how Allied Eye can help with your eye care needs, or to schedule an appointment (423) 855-8522.