Family Eye Health & Contact Lens Center

All About Vision – Seeing More Clearly

Hypertension could be lurking in your eyes


Image by Morning Calm News via Flickr

This past holiday, there were 15 people gathered to celebrate, friends and family.  At some point in the evening, one of the hosts, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, had his blood pressure cuff sitting around; it’s a digital wrist cuff. You can’t have one of those things sitting at the table around this curious group without someone picking it up and playing with it. It became a betting game, of course. We’re not just curious, we’re also competitive. It was all fun and games, however, three of the men at the table showed frighteningly high blood pressure. All are relatively young men, seemingly healthy. And, while we were all participating in the spirits that accompany such a bash, the number of others who “played” our game offered a good enough control group of consistently accurate readings.

There could be several reasons that cuff read so high for these guys…user error, cuff too low in relation to the heart, vessels too far beneath the skin, and so on. However, we tested each person at the table three times, at different intervals and stages of rest. All fluctuated in heart rate, but consistently presented similar blood pressure. These three guys, whom I love and respect, could be ticking time bombs. I found myself in a quandary. I’m concerned. The writing seems to be on the wall, but I’m not a doctor. Should I say something?

I did. I couldn’t just sit back and let this slide. It was difficult to address when it’s not my expertise—not even close. But, I did it, privately and after the celebration. By talking to them, I had nothing to lose. If I didn’t speak up, I could literally lose them. I shared my concern and asked them to take the opportunity to get a way-past-overdue physical, including a COMPLETE eye exam by an optometrist.

They had no idea that a look into the eye may reveal the silent damage wrought by high blood pressure and diabetes and reflect the risk of a future stroke or heart attack. All I can do is hope they share my concern and check it out. If nothing else, they’ll have an answer. If it turns out to be nothing, they’ll have a reason to hassle me (worrywart). There has to be at least one of us to razz while sitting at the card table. In this case, I’ll gladly wear that hat. If it turns out we caught something by playing our little impromptu game, then I’ll just be happy to be sitting at the table with them for a while longer.

No matter who you are, regular eye exams are important for seeing more clearly and seeing signs of diseases like hypertension, glaucoma, and diabetes.  So get your new year off to a great start by getting complete eye exam with your Optometrist.

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Sight Unseen: Glaucoma Can Take Sight without Warning

It’s a brand new year, what are you going to do differently? Take better care of yourself? Will you exercise more, eat healthier, or make an effort to see the doctor as often as you should? Finding time in your busy schedule to implement those resolutions often proves challenging.  Don’t underestimate the importance of those doctor visits and more specifically, visits to your eye doctor.

A quick trip to your optometrist may not only be sight saving, but potentially life saving. Optometrists can evaluate the health of your eyes as well as the clarity of vision and they can also detect chronic and systemic diseases such as glaucoma, diabetes and even hypertension.   Glaucoma affects more than three million Americans, but over half of them don’t even know that they have it, according to Prevent Blindness America. Glaucoma begins by attacking  the peripheral vision.  At first, it is possible to compensate by squinting or turning the head to focus better.  Initially, these changes may seem minor, but glaucoma can accelerate quickly; causing eyesight to rapidly and irreversibly deteriorate. Like many diseases, some factors can increase the risk of developing glaucoma, such as age, race or genetics.  Glaucoma usually affects one in 200 people by age 50, but as many as one in 10 people by age 80. The risk of developing glaucoma is much higher among African Americans: four to five times higher. In fact, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. Not only do African Americans usually develop glaucoma 10 years earlier than Caucasians, they are also six to 15 times more likely to be blinded by the disease.

Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. This reinforces what the National Optometric Association and the AOA already recommend: adults need regular, comprehensive eye exams. Fortunately, Medicare covers annual glaucoma screenings for people considered at heightened risk of developing glaucoma, such as individuals with diabetes, those with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans age 50 and older and Hispanic Americans age 65 and older.

So start off the new year right: set up an appointment with your eye doctor  and maybe hit the gym and grab a salad on your way home.

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