As people age, eye exams become even more important to ensure no underlying eye diseases are present. A recent study has shown that eye exams may also be important in detecting other non eye-related issues, such as stroke risk.
The study from the National University of Singapore involved 2,900 individuals who were proven to have high blood pressure, but had not yet had a stroke. The participants’ retinas were scanned for any blood vessel damage – a condition called hypertensive retinopathy. The researchers then analyzed the pictures and graded the damage as non-existent, mild, moderate, or severe. After the conclusion of the study, researchers found that those participants with hypertensive retinopathy were 35 percent more likely than those without hypertensive retinopathy to have a stroke. Even more striking, the subjects with moderate or severe levels were 137 percent more likely to have a stroke.
If applied in the real world, the ability to identify specific seniors who are at a high stroke risk can help in encouraging them to exercise regularly, better manage stress and keep blood pressure at a healthy level.
Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. explains, “This is valuable information reinforcing what we have known for a long time. It is fortunate that in the US, we are extremely good at treating high blood pressure – so good that we rarely see even mild hypertensive retinopathy. However, when we do see it, we feel it is important to confirm that the patient is working to reduce their risk of stroke through lifestyle changes and medical management of their blood pressure.”
Individuals over the age of 40 should schedule a comprehensive eye exam every two years or more often based on feedback from your ophthalmologist. By age 65, eye exams should be an annual appointment to help find any issues or continue treatment of any known problems. To schedule your annual eye exam, please call us at (512) 427-1100 or use our online scheduler.