Has a patient ever given you a funny look when you’ve asked questions about his or her medical history? It’s probably because the patient was expecting you to stick to eye and vision questions, rather than overall health questions. Many times, patients don’t realize that systemic issues can be detected through an eye exam, or that such issues could be the reason behind changes in vision.
With World Hypertension Day coming up on May 17, it’s a good time to talk to your patients about how hypertension can affect their vision and health, especially if they have been diagnosed with hypertension in the past or if they have a family history of the condition. A few points to share with your patients include the following:
- Vessels in the eye can change or become damaged as a result of elevated blood pressure. The perfusion of the retina can also be damaged and eye tissue may not receive enough oxygen.
- Nerve cells can die, which creates an increased risk for thromboses, leading to blurred vision or blindness.
- Many people aren’t even aware that they have hypertension or don’t experience symptoms, which is why it’s often referred to as the “silent killer.”
- Hypertension can lead to stroke, heart and kidney disease; which can be prevented when patients know they are at risk.
An optomap exam is able to detect some of the signs of hypertension before a patient exhibits more obvious symptoms, and can potentially save the patient’s life. Take 62-year-old Michael, for example. He wasn’t experiencing any symptoms of hypertension when he visited Dr. Daryl Sorah for an annual eye exam. Dr. Sorah performed an optomap and noted that the resulting image showed Michael was at risk for a stroke or transient ischemic attack. Michael was immediately referred to his primary care physician, who completed a variety of tests, which indicated a slightly elevated cholesterol level. Three months later, he had a stroke. Michael has since recovered and is in good health. He credits the optomap’s findings and Dr. Sorah’s recommendation to see his primary care doctor for preparing him on how to properly respond after having a stroke.
According to the World Hypertension League, 1.5 billion people suffer from hypertension each year, with 9.4 million deaths attributed to hypertension annually. We encourage you to take action now and help educate your patients on the importance of keeping an eye out for signs of hypertension and encouraging proper treatment if you aren’t already. And if you are, share with us in a comment below some of your strategies for getting the conversation started!