By Zack Steele
There’s the old saying, “When one door shuts, another one opens.” For one patient recently, the door that shut was sight in his left eye. The door that opened: a big clue into a big-time cardiovascular problem.
He remembers, “Everything went dark in that eye – like a window shade had been pulled over it.” He had a history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but normal vision up until that day.
Naturally, he was scared, and scheduled a visit that morning. But, he wasn’t there long. Instead, at urgent insistence, he was on his way to his medical doctor
. That’s because we knew immediately how serious the sudden and brief vision loss could be.
As soon as I heard his story and examined his eyes, I suspected that his temporary loss of vision might be a symptom of a blockage in a blood vessel – probably in one of the carotid arteries that run down both sides of the neck and supply blood to the brain.
At his medical doctor’s office, the patient shared once again the details of the strange event. A quick ultrasound was all it took to reveal the real story: one of his carotid arteries was 90 percent blocked, the other 75 percent. The classic buildup of fatty tissues had given us its first clue through the sudden vision loss.
Fast forward a few hours, and the patient found himself getting prepped for emergency surgery. A few weeks later, a second operation finished the cleanup job.
“My surgery took place March last year,” he says today, “and I haven’t had any problems with my vision since.”
For me, this ordeal is just another reason why eye exams are important – to your eyes and your life. It also serves as another reminder to me, and hopefully to everyone out there, that eye care is more than just glasses and contact lenses. If you suffer from any type of cardiovascular problem, or even if you don’t, see an eye care professional yearly to prevent these types of problems.
Dr. Zack Steele is a 2003 graduate of the UAB School of Optometry. His practice, Trussville Vision Care, is located on Chalkville Road in downtown Trussville.