A new report case suggests that vision problems may sometimes be the only sign that a person suffers from a severe cardiovascular condition.
In the case report – published November 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine – a 77-year-old man in Greece had three five-minute episodes of blurred vision in his right eye. Although his vision returned to normal after this incident, the man decided to go to an eye clinic at his local hospital.
An eye exam revealed that the man’s vision and pressure within the eyes were good. However, upon closer examination the doctor found that a blood clot was blocking the blood supply to the lining at the back of the man’s eye.
Dr. Ilias Georgalas, co-author of the case report and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, in Greece, said that these types of blood clots are usually made of clumps of platelets (also called thrombocytes) and cholesterol. In this case, the blood clot came from the carotid artery.
Regardless of its size, a blood clot in the central or branch retinal artery may signal severe health problems, and people who have such blood clots have a higher risk of stroke, said Dr. Georgalas. The new case report highlights the fact that some visual symptoms may indicate the existence of a cardiovascular problem.
The 77-year-old man had no eye problems, but he had high cholesterol levels, the researchers wrote in the report. For the past five years he had been taking statin medications to reduce his cholesterol.
According to Dr. Georgalas, it is easy for doctors to have a look at the vascular system by examining the eyes of a patient. Vascular problems in other past of the body can be usually seen in the blood vessels within the eyes, Georgalas added.
In the recent case, by checking the patient’s eye, the doctors were able to find that the man’s blood flow through the carotid artery was blocked 80 percent because of vascular disease, also known as atherosclerosis.
The man underwent surgery and 12 month later he had no more eye problems, and his vision was normal, the case report states.
Dr. Georgalas advises people not to ignore any visual disturbances, such as temporary loss of vision, because the eyes are a good indicator of someone’s overall health. In cases like these, having the eyes checked by an ophthalmologist is crucial because it may uncover more severe health problems, he said.
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