Ever wonder how an eye exam can detect systemic disease?
Individuals with vascular conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes will have changes to their blood vessels as a result of these conditions. Because the retina, the internal lining of the eye, requires a lot of oxygen it contains a lot of blood vessels and we are able to see the changes in these vessels when we evaluate the retina. Below are a few examples as to how these health conditions affect the blood vessels in the eyes.
Individuals with diabetes need yearly vision exams to monitor for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where diabetes causes blood vessels to leak resulting in multiple small hemorrhages and a lack of oxygen to the tissue which damages the retinal tissue. If there are no signs of diabetic retinopathy, chances are good the diabetes is under good control and is not likely resulting in problems with blood vessels in other parts of the body. However, if there is significant diabetic retinopathy, it is indicative that the blood vessels in the rest of the body, especially the kidney and the feet, will be affected thus giving us a view of the overall health.
High Blood Pressure
When and individual had long standing high blood pressure that is not controlled, this will cause the arteries to constrict to handle the blood pressure and the veins to dilate in order to handle the volume of blood. Over time these changes will result in a size difference between the arteries and veins, which are detected when evaluating the retinal tissue.
Side Effects Of Medications
Many medications can have side effects that affect vision or the health of the eye and thus need to be monitored closely for these side effects. These can include deposits to the corneal or retinal tissue, problems affecting focusing ability, eye movements, increased light sensitivity and changes to color vision to name a few.