Joanne McNicol is a patient of Eyes Focused on You and we had been assessing her for vision episodes that were suspected ocular migraines. Ocular migraines can occur with or without a headache and cause the patient to experience flashing or shimmering lights, zig zagging lines or stars, and it can sometimes even cause blind spots in the normal field of vision.
Over lunch one day, Joanne experienced the sudden and complete loss of vision in one eye for a very brief period of time. This was nothing at all like the visual episodes she had experienced before. Fearing a stroke, she quickly took a baby Aspirin and made a note of the time the episode began. Fortunately, it took only 7.5 minutes for Joanne's vision to return. Even though Joanne felt like she was back to normal, she booked an appointment with Dr. Teske just to be sure, and she was assessed right away. Although we found no evidence of any abnormality with her eye, we referred her to her family doctor for follow-up as we strongly suspected that her vision episode was due to a vascular event or a circulation blockage.
At Eyes Focused on you, our primary goal is to provide our patients with the information and assistance they need to take charge of their health and the health of their families. It is extremely important to understand that our eyes are in fact a window to the health of our bodies and can actually work as an early warning system for a number of health problems.
What health problems can the eyes reveal?
Grave's disease, (goiter) for example, impacts the thyroid gland and can cause the eyes to protrude forward or become very dry. Blurred vision can indicate a number of serious health problems, including diabetes. Liver problems can cause the whites of the eyes to turn yellow, and high cholesterol can create a cloudy white ring around the iris -- the coloured part of the eye. These are just a few of the many health problems that can impact various parts of our bodies, but reveal themselves in our eyes, sometimes before pain or any other symptoms prompt us to see a doctor. With an early diagnosis of potential illness, patients can be more proactive and not reactive with their health.
Sudden vision changes can indicate a problem with the brain
It's also important to know that the eyes are in fact an extension of the brain and that any sudden and/or dramatic changes to vision should be assessed promptly by a health care provider. Joanne's family doctor referred her to a specialist and she soon underwent a series of tests including a CT scan (a type of X-ray) of her head and a Doppler scan (ultrasound) of her neck. Both tests are non-invasive ways to see inside the body. It was through the scan of her neck that Joanne discovered that her left carotid artery, a major blood vessel that takes oxygenated blood to the head, brain, and face, was between 80% to 99% blocked! This situation can be life-threatening and would certainly have caused the transient loss of vision she experienced.
Today, Joanne has completely recovered from surgery to unblock her artery. She is extremely grateful that she followed up on the vision loss she experienced and that she was referred to her family doctor. "I would have just let it go," says Joanne. "I didn't know you can have a stroke and have it go into your eye. Things have turned out wonderfully, but it could have been a very different story. Who knows what might have happened."