Your eyes are a direct reflection of your overall health. A dilation enables your doctor to see the optic nerve, the retina, and the blood vessels. Early diagnosis and treatment are important in glaucoma, which causes damage to your optic nerve and retinal nerves. Conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can affect the blood vessels, resulting in bleeding and leakage.
Last year, a patient came in for her annual exam, with no complaints or problems, but reported “good vision with glasses.” Peripheral vision testing revealed an unusual defect. Upon dilation, I found out that the defect was due to a branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO). This is a retinal vacular disease often linked to atherosclerosis, because the hardened retinal arteries cross over and put pressure on a retinal vein. When blood flow is blocked, retinal nerve cells die, resulting in loss of vision.
BRVOs are seen most commonly in patients whose blood vessel health is less than ideal. In these patients, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) leads to a thickening of the wall of retinal arteries and makes it more likely that an artery will push on a vein leading to an obstruction. Factors that increase the risk for BRVO include high cholesterol, being overweight, and especially high blood pressure.
She required a full cardiovascular work-up, blood tests, and prompt attention by her primary care physician. Thankfully, the condition resolved, but she has lost some of her peripheral vision, and is followed closely by me, the retinal specialist, and primary care physician.