Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Eye – window to your heart

Kristine Jensen, Owner-Optometrist at Eyes of Howick explains what may be revealed during an eye exam

The human eye is an incredibly complex organ and despite being just over two centimetres in diameter it maintains over 2 million working parts!

The eye is also unique as it is the only part of the body where you can see inside it – including blood vessels and nerves, without cutting it open! This unique feature enables an eye exam to review your cardiovascular and general health.

The Anterior Eye signs

Xanthelasma – soft yellow growth that appears on the eye lid near the inner corners of your eyes. This is indicative of high blood cholesterol and an increased risk of ischaemic heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Corneal deposits – fine coloured deposits within the superficial layers of the normally clear cornea may be associated with various medications such as Chloroquine, Amiodarone and Tamoxifen, but may also occur due to the rare Fabry’s and Wilson’s diseases ( both associated with cardiac anomalies). Corneal arcus a white ring-shaped deposit around the outer edge of the cornea – occurring due to age but if appearing before the age of 50 years is associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis and high blood cholesterol.

Internal Eye Exam

Optic nerve swelling – this may be due to a number of general health causes and with some being life threatening it is important to quickly ascertain a correct diagnosis.

Retinal disease – Hypertension and diabetes are the most common causes of damage to the retinal blood vessels. Signs may include haemorrhages and micro aneurysms along with narrowing or occlusion of the blood vessels.

Both retinal artery and retinal vein occlusion lead to a painless loss of vision. Occlusion of a retinal artery requires urgent referral for carotid artery exam as blockage or an embolism is likely. Retinal vein occlusion is often associated with hypertension and a cardiovascular work up is recommended.

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