The proverb “the eyes are the window to the soul” is well known but did you also know that your eyes are a window to your general health? Many medical conditions affect the eyes such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. That is one of the reasons why a thorough eye examination includes the use of dilating drops to expand your pupils so we can take a good look at the retina in the back of your eyes. Many of these conditions affect tiny blood vessels located elsewhere such as the brain, heart, kidney or feet but the eye is the only place where they can be directly seen.
With high blood pressure or cholesterol the presence of small flame-shaped hemorrhages in the back of the eye, twisted blood vessels or evidence of thickening of the tiny blood vessel walls is often found. These vascular changes elsewhere in the body could lead to a stroke or a heart attack.
Diabetes, whether controlled with diet, pills or shots, has the potential of causing a number of problems in the eye. We look for tiny “dot” hemorrhages, abnormal new blood vessels, swelling and bleeding into the eye. Keeping the blood sugars as well controlled as possible decreases, but does not eliminate, this possibility.
Multiple sclerosis is often diagnosed after an episode of optic neuritis. This is a condition where swelling occurs in the optic nerve in the back of the eye causing a painless decrease in vision in one eye: treatments include intravenous steroids.
So be sure your “window to your health” is checked with a dilated eye examination at least every one to two years!
Dr. Martha Jay is a board certified Ophthalmologist who founded Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals in 1992. She specializes in medical and surgical eye care such as blade-free iLASIK and small incision cataract surgery.
For more eye care information, visit www.LakeShoreVision.com or call 262-241-1919.