Eye Exam – Windows to Your Health

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high cholesterol eye exam

Your eyes may be the gateway to your soul, but they can also give insight into your health. A comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist can detect many chronic conditions and diseases – like diabetes and high cholesterol – before any symptoms appear.

Warning signs for heart disease risk can include the appearance of yellow-tinged rings around the cornea known as xanthelasma. Other indicators could include simultaneous dilation and constriction of pupils that could indicate diabetes or hypertension.


Xanthelasma is a condition in which yellow deposits appear around the eyes. These plaques often form on either the inner corner of an eyelid or at the edge of a cornea and should not interfere with vision; it usually develops painlessly without impairing vision, although xanthelasma could be an indicator of high cholesterol. Therefore it is highly advised that anyone experiencing xanthelasma consult their physician to learn more about their levels.

Hyperlipidemia is typically responsible for eye xanthelasma. It most frequently affects middle age and older adults, typically as a result of genetic disorders, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome or pancreatitis; or other underlying diseases which result in increased fat in the blood, such as adipose tissue inflammation or fatty liver disease.

Fatty deposits that form as part of this condition often indicate increased risks of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, as well as familial hypercholesterolemia which increases one’s chances of heart disease two to fourfold.

A 47-year-old Caucasian male Veteran developed well-demarcated yellowish lesions on the medial aspects of his upper eyelids three years prior. There were no other similar skin lesions or family history of hyperlipidemia or dyslipidemia. A medical exam was unremarkable while lab tests including serum cholesterol and triglycerides levels were normal.

Xanthelasma are most frequently found on the inner corner of both upper and lower lids, but can occur elsewhere on the body as well. Often occurring soft with velvety textures but occasionally semi-solid or even calcareous in nature; often appearing as small bumps of several millimeters size that cover an eyelid area completely. They may eventually extend into orbicularis muscles underlying them and even cover entire eyelid areas completely. They can reach coverage on entire areas of eyelids. They often grow completely covering an eyelid area covering an entire eyelid area covering an entire section – eventually reaching its entirety!

Most cases of xanthelasma will resolve themselves naturally without intervention, particularly those small enough or located near the outer corner of the eye. If chalazion becomes chronic and cyst-like, an office procedure known as stye (or blepharoplasty) may be performed to drain it – opening through skin with sterile needle used to extract contents gently through skin opening; also often administered are steroids injections at this time to reduce inflammation and speed healing.

Synchronized Pupils

Eyes may be windows to our souls, but they can also serve as windows into our hearts. A visiting optometrist may notice that your pupils dilate and constrict in sync with each heartbeat — known as synchronized pupils — which could indicate cardiovascular issues like aortic regurgitation.

Your eye exam should also assess your peripheral vision using the confrontation test. Ask your patient to sit or stand approximately 6 feet (2 m) away, open their eyes, and shine a light into each pupil individually; observe its reaction; an ideal pupil should constrict as it receives light; any deviation could indicate Marcus Gunn pupil syndrome which could indicate retinal disease.

As part of your examination, it is essential that you assess both the color and size of each pupil. Typically, their shape should be regular with equal pupils having equal sizes.

Pupillary responses reflect an equilibrium between speed and accuracy in movement. Larger pupils tend to respond more readily to negative feedback but move slower and less accurately, while smaller pupils are more resistant to such feedback but move more swiftly and precisely.

Pupil size can be altered by medications, age and environment factors such as mydriasis (pupil constriction to less than 2 mm) caused by ingestion of narcotics or medications for controlling glaucoma; Miosis may result from stress, arousal and certain neurologic disorders including epilepsy or brain trauma.

Keep an eye out for a normal red reflex in the fundus, reflecting blood vessels located approximately two disc diameters temporally from the optic nerve. It should be readily noticeable as an apparent crescent or dot in the center of your fundus. Furthermore, your eyes should be free of hemorrhage or cataracts that might obscure it and all previous eye exams results should be recorded for comparison against current findings.


Strokes occur when an artery that supplies blood to the brain becomes blocked by either a blood clot or narrowing of an artery, cutting off oxygen to it. There are two kinds of strokes; ischemic and hemorrhagic. Eighty percent of strokes are classified as ischemic.

High cholesterol is one of the primary contributors to stroke. Not only is high blood cholesterol a risk factor for heart disease, but high levels can cause plaques in blood vessels supplying the brain to form which then break off and travel to block blood flow to parts of it. Other risk factors for a stroke may include high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and chronic disease.

People who have had a stroke typically recover some function due to other parts of the brain taking over functions that were no longer functioning well, though problems like weakness, difficulty walking or swallowing and vision and speech changes often remain permanent. Therefore, those who have had one should create advance directives so their wishes for medical care in the event they become incapacitated become clear.

Eye exams are essential in diagnosing health conditions, including high cholesterol levels. Yellow fatty deposits in the corners of the eyes indicate high cholesterol, as do protruding or retracting eyelids (Graves’ disease).

There are various signs that indicate an imminent stroke, starting with sudden and severe headaches that are accompanied by nausea and vomiting, followed by balance or coordination issues leading to falls, blurred or double vision suddenly appearing, weakness on one side of your body or sudden double vision onset. If any of these signs present themselves immediately call 911!

Strokes are medical emergencies, and every minute counts in treating this illness. Women and African Americans are at greater risk than white people for suffering a stroke; therefore it’s essential that if you have had one before to speak to your doctor about preventive measures.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a condition in which fluid leakage from blocked blood vessels in the retina causes blurry vision, typically in only one eye, with symptoms ranging from mild visual disturbance to blindness. Blood clots often form in retinal veins and arteries, the soft, thin blood vessels which run along the retina to drain into larger arteries in the back of the eye. Clots may form, though narrowing or blocking of these vessels may also occur. Blockages impact vision loss to various degrees, and generally affect either central retinal vein or one of its branches; however, the occlusion could occur anywhere within the retina and is particularly likely to form at sites where arteries and veins cross each other compared with those farther apart.

Symptoms of high cholesterol eye exams typically include sudden and painless blurring or loss of vision that affects all or part of one eye, which may become gradually worse over time if left untreated. Other symptoms can include dark spots known as “floaters”, which appear as bits of cells or other material floating within your vision – these spots represent blocked blood vessels and should be detected with an exam designed to detect such blockages.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, make an appointment with your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. Your professional will examine your vision, measure intraocular pressure and look for signs of retinal vein occlusion such as an arcus senilis.

Your eye doctor will work in conjunction with your GP to identify risk factors associated with retinal vein occlusion such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes. He or she can then perform laser treatment to shrink abnormal new blood vessels that form in the retina as well as inject medications directly into your eyes in the office to reduce macular oedema. If advanced neovascularization has already resulted in loss of vision then surgery may be performed to ease tension that could cause retinal detachments or glaucoma.

About the Author:
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Alexander Suprun

Alex started his first web marketing campaign in 1997 and continues harvesting this fruitful field today. He helped many startups and well-established companies to grow to the next level by applying innovative inbound marketing strategies. For the past 26 years, Alex has served over a hundred clients worldwide in all aspects of digital marketing and communications. Additionally, Alex is an expert researcher in healthcare, vision, macular degeneration, natural therapy, and microcurrent devices. His passion lies in developing medical devices to combat various ailments, showcasing his commitment to innovation in healthcare.


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