Friday, May 25, 2012

The Eye is the Window to Your Body's Health

Rick C. learned that paying close attention to vision can actually not only indicate your eye’s health but it can be an indicator of your overall body health as well.  He came to our office because about a week ago he got some debris in his left eye, and after rubbing his eye, he noticed his vision was blurry only in his left eye.  He thought it would get better, so he waited about a week and it was still very blurry.  Additionally, he saw a small pink band in the center of his vision.  Hoping it was just a scratch on his eye, he wasn’t prepared to find out what the actual diagnosis was for his loss of vision in the left eye. 

Rick's normal right eye

Rick's left eye, showing some small blood spots at the edges of the swollen optic nerve (yellow circle)

Dr. Paull reviewed his retinal photos and immediately noticed small blood hemorrhages and a swollen optic nerve in his left eye only.  This would explain the pink spot – it was actually some blood floating in his eye that his brain interpreted as a spot in his vision!  Rick was only able to see 20/100, although at his exam the year before he had been able to see 20/20. After additional tests by a neuro-ophthalmologist the next day, Rick was diagnosed with “ischemic optic neuropathy”, which is essentially a stroke to the eye.  This occurs when the blood supply to the optic nerve is suddenly decreased and the eye loses vision.   The nerve started to swell, and this burst some of the blood vessels in the eye.  Rick started medication that helps supply blood again to his left eye and improve the possibility of regaining some vision.

Rick was very thankful that although he suffered a ‘stroke of the eye’, he did not suffer a stroke to another part of the brain or something worse, such as an infection or blood disease.  Although Rick is only 65 years old, he is making sure to carefully monitor his blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and overall health.  Most bodily conditions can actually affect the small blood vessels in the eye, which is why the eye is the ‘window’ in to the body’s health!  Yearly eye exams are recommended to help not only check your vision, but your overall health as well.