Could You Have Ocular Ischemic Syndrome?
Did you know that it’s quite possible to have ocular ischemic syndrome and not know it?
Many people who are over the age of 50 pay close attention to the function of their hearts, lungs and other vital organs, but tend to dismiss small irregularities with vision as a normal part of aging, however, problems with the eyes can be the first sign of a larger problem.
A healthy blood flow to all organs is vital for the maintenance of optimum function and health, and often the first signs of restricted blood flow show up in the eyes. The carotid artery is responsible for delivering a healthy supply of blood to the brain, and subsequently, the eyes. When this artery is impaired or blocked due to a buildup of cholesterol plaque, a clot, inflammation, or a weakness in the artery it can cause various eye problems.
Ocular ischemic syndrome (OIS) is an umbrella term for many signs and symptoms that are related to a loss of blood flow to the eye. Ischemia is the restriction of blood supply to tissues, which causes a shortage of oxygen to the cells. This oxygen is needed to keep the tissue alive and the eye healthy.
This underlying condition can lead to many problems with vision, and because it relates to inflammation of the arterial system, it can also indicate an obstruction in the arterial system, and in addition to problems with vision, it can be an early warning sign of an impending stroke.
Ocular ischemic syndrome is a rare, but vision-threatening condition. In the US, an estimated 2,100 people are diagnosed with OIS every year. OIS most commonly occurs in elderly men, and usually only in those aged 50 and over. However, people who suffer from arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus, coronary artery disease, and previous stroke are at a higher risk of this syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Ocular Ischemic Syndrome
The signs of OIS that a patient will notice include:
Visual loss – this is the most apparent sign. Roughly ninety percent of patients experience visual loss that can occur over a period of days to weeks. For some patients, the vision loss is abrupt.
Pain – around forty percent of patients will experience pain as a symptom. The pain related to OIS is a dull ache, one that could easily be overlooked or ignored.
Delayed vision recovery – some people may notice that it takes longer to recover vision after exposure to a bright light.
The danger of OIS is that we can ignore many of the early warning signs, but frequent eye exams will catch the symptoms that need to be addressed.
Your Kelowna eye doctor may notice an increase in iris neovascularization, dilated retinal veins, or they may notice a decrease in ocular perfusion pressure. They will also be able to detect other signs such as a cherry-red spot in the macula, a mid-dilated pupil, or vascular congestion.
While all of these terms will be unfamiliar to most people, to an eye doctor these area all red flags that indicate a more serious problem.
Treatment for OIS
Ocular Ischemic Syndrome is a serious condition, and not just for your eyes, but for your overall health. Studies have shown that the overall mortality rate for patients with this condition is 40% within five years; this is because it is directly related to cardiovascular disease and cerebrovascular disease.
Medical treatment for ocular ischemic syndrome addresses the blocked arteries and removal of cholesterol plaque. Steroids may be prescribed to suppress inflammation, and surgery may be required to open the arteries by implanting a shunt. Since the root of the problem lies in the carotid artery, surgery to implant a stent in the artery may be necessary to increase blood flow.
And of course, a healthier diet, stopping smoking, losing weight, and increasing exercise are all recommended as a course of action to help improve your immune system and avoid increasing the buildup of plaque in the arteries.
Your eyes may not be windows to the soul, but they most definitely help detect problems with the health of your heart and vascular system.
So don’t neglect the health of your eyes; if you notice an increase in blurred vision, a recurring pain or difficulty focusing, schedule an appointment with your Kelowna optometrist as soon as possible.