One of the most interesting features of cardiovascular disease is that symptoms are not only present in the body, but can be found in the eyes as well. In fact, current research suggests that cardiovascular disease may be spotted early through a regular eye exam because symptoms of the condition may be spotted in the eyes sooner than they are spotted in the body.
Some symptoms of cardiovascular disease in the eyes include a narrowing of the blood vessels, ballooning of the blood vessels, and swelling located at the base of the optic nerve. Harvard studies into this area note that individuals with changes in blood vessels of the eyes due to high blood pressure were found to be two to four times more likely to suffer from a stroke.
Furthermore, individuals with these same changes in eye blood vessels were also found to be at a higher risk for heart attack and heart failure. Interestingly, the study reported a notable difference between the occurrence between men and women. Women were more likely than men to be affected by damage to the retinal blood vessels from high blood pressure and diabetes, also making them better candidates for spotting cardiovascular risks before they become a more serious issue.
Transient Monocular Vision Loss
Transient monocular vision loss is one particular vision condition that has gotten some attention in terms of its relation to vision and the signaling of a cardiovascular episode onset. It has been reported that individuals who experience transient monocular vision loss, or the temporary loss of vision in one eye, should be referred to a cardiologist for an evaluation immediately.
In many cases, the occurrence of transient monocular vision loss is highly associated with atherosclerosis, but may also be followed by a different cerebrovascular or cardiovascular episode.
Vision loss due to transient monocular vision loss generally lasts for a matter of minutes. When vision returns, it generally returns as normal, with no signs of the episode that just occurred. This can lead individuals to write off the condition as being stress-related, a simple one-time incident, or something not serious enough to seek immediate medical care. However, the reality of the condition demands immediate evaluation from both a cardiologist and an ophthalmologist.
When you have a thorough eye examination, your ophthalmologist will look into the eyes to examine both vision and other factors that may affect health. With an examination like this an ophthalmologist can spot silver or copper colored arteries which can signal high blood pressure.
Leaky Blood Vessels
During an exam, an abnormal blood vessel or spots from a blood vessel that is leaking can signal diabetes that has clogged or damaged the blood vessels of the eyes. Not only is spotting this important for your general health, it is also important to protect your vision. If left unchecked, diabetes can lead to permanent vision disruption or loss.
Cardiovascular Diseases Affecting the Eyes
The heart plays a vital role in distributing blood to the various areas of the body that need it. So, an issue with the heart also means that you’re going to experience other issues with blood flow and oxygen delivery. These issues can lead to issues in all areas of the body, including the eyes.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is a condition known to cause issues with both the body and eyes. This is a condition that a person is born with. Congenital heart disease may be the result of exposure to alcohol, chemicals, medications, or viral infections while the fetus in developing within the uterus. When left unchecked, congenital heart disease can lead to swelling in and around the eyes, as well as a number of other bodily symptoms.
Cyanotic Heart Disease
Cyanotic heart disease is a type of congenital heart disease in which low blood oxygen levels are found throughout the body. The condition is associated with heart defects, or by the presence of an infection or the use of medications during pregnancy. In terms of the eyes, cyanotic heart disease can cause the eyes to appear puffy.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is known as a silent killer because you may go for years before ever knowing that you have a problem with high blood pressure. In many cases, symptoms aren’t readily visible until the condition is highly developed and serious problems have started to arise.
High blood pressure can cause a number of issues within the body, spanning from the veins and arteries, to the heart and even the brain. Each of these areas have connections to other areas of the body, including the eyes. One particular condition, dementia, has connections to high blood pressure and can lead to issues with visual acuity.
High blood pressure can also lead to hypertensive retinopathy, or damage to the retina. High blood pressure causes damage to the blood vessels in the retina, leading to double vision, dim vision, vision loss, and headaches. Additionally, high blood pressure can make you more likely to suffer from other vision conditions like retinal artery occlusion, retinal vein occlusion, and ischemic optic neuropathy.
Strokes are a major cardiovascular episode, and can have damaging affects on the eyes, or manifest in the eyes. Common symptoms of stroke seen in the eyes include distorted vision, blind spots in your line of sight, and loss of peripheral vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended that you seek medical treatment immediately. Failure to seek treatment can result in permanent damage or vision loss.
Risk factors for a stroke include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a narrowing of the neck artery. Men are also at higher risk than women to suffer a stroke with eye symptoms, and strokes are more likely to occur in individuals in their 60s, than those in their younger mid-range years.
Protecting Against Cardiovascular Disease and Vision Damage
Protecting your body against the occurrence of cardiovascular conditions is paramount to protecting both your body and your eyes. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure that your daily nutrient intake includes an antioxidant, and preferably a powerful one like Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Lutein and Zeaxanthin have been found to decrease the levels of molecules associated with inflammation and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
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