Regular eye exams could help with heart health

MADISON, Wis. — According to doctors, a comprehensive eye exam does more than just check your vision — it can also help detect cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

This is because the eye is the only place in the body where blood vessels are directly visible, not obstructed by skin or tissue.

Optometrist Dr. Tessa Sokol said, incorporating a regular eye exam in conjunction with annual physicals is important because symptoms are not always readily apparent.

“Some patients will just come in for a comprehensive eye examination for glasses, contacts or just to get their eyes checked and not realize that they actually do have potential cardiovascular issues,” she said.

Optometrists are able to look for a myriad of indicators such as clots of cholesterol floating through arteries, damage to the optic nerve or swelling underneath the retina to detect cardiovascular diseases. 

Sokol said people will ordinarily associate vision issues with fatigue or computers but often those aren’t the cause so she recommends early intervention.

“The longer you have an undiagnosed progressive disease, the more likelihood they’re going to have vision loss or it’s going to have a stroke in the brain that will affect the way they perceive their vision,” she added.

Sokol also said with the new technologies and artificial intelligence available to help doctors develop risk factors regarding the likelihood of a patient having a stroke or heart attack it’s important to focus on prevention.

“I like to take advantage of a patient coming in to teach them ways that they can proactively keep their body healthy to try to prevent the progression of these diseases and vision loss,” she said.