One of the most interesting features of cardiovascular disease is that symptoms are not only present in the body. You may experience symptoms in the eyes as well. In fact, current research suggests that cardiovascular disease may be spotted early during a regular eye exam. This is because symptoms of the condition can appear in the eyes sooner than in the rest of 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. UChicago Medicine reports that individuals with changes in blood vessels of the eyes due to high blood pressure are more likely to suffer from a stroke.
Individuals experiencing these changes in eye blood vessels are also at a higher risk for heart attack and heart failure. Interestingly, the report notes that Google has come out with medical technology that scans your eyes and examines them for signs of cardiovascular disease. It notes your sex, blood pressure, history or smoking, and more through imaging. Although this technology can’t replace regular eye exams yet, it is promising that there are advancements in progress to use the eyes to learn about heart health.
Transient Monocular Vision Loss
Transient monocular vision loss is one particular vision condition that is getting some attention lately. It is a temporary loss of vision, and can signal a cardiovascular episode onset. Individuals who experience transient monocular vision loss should make an appointment to see a cardiologist for an evaluation immediately.
In many cases, the occurrence of transient monocular vision loss is highly associated with atherosclerosis. However, it may also trigger 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 often leads 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.
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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. 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 that can 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 is 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. It can also occur due to 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 a silent killer. 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. This can lead 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, you should 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 sixties, 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 antioxidants, and preferably powerful ones 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.