Help Your Employees Understand the Link Between Eye Health and High Blood Pressure

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When the average American employee visits his eye doctor for a routine eye exam, he probably does not realize how much valuable information he’s sharing between eye blinks. Although some people say “The eyes are the window to the soul,” a more accurate saying is “The eyes are the window to your systemic system.” This is because when optometrists or ophthalmologists examine someone’s eyes during a routine exam, they can detect many systemic conditions and diseases, including prediabetes, diabetes and high blood pressure.1

As you can imagine, high blood pressure can have a negative impact on the eyes. For instance, the blood vessels that supply blood to the retina can also be damaged and begin to leak as a result of the extra pressure placed on these delicate blood vessels. “If high blood pressure is left untreated, or is undiagnosed, it can lead to bleeding in the eye, blurred vision, damage to the optic nerve and blindness,” warns Malinowski. However, when employees understand how serious high blood pressure is, they can become motivated to manage the disease.

According to Dr. Barry Malinowski, medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio, “When someone has high blood pressure, continuous stress is placed on the muscular wall in the arteries throughout the body – including the arteries in the eyes. Similar to how the muscles in the legs, arms and core grow bigger from persistent exercise; the arteries in the eyes become larger and stiff because of high blood pressure. As a result, an eye doctor can literally ‘see’ when someone has high blood pressure due to the thickened blood vessels in the eyes, as well as other tell-tale signs.”

High blood pressure can also lead to the development of heart disease, which is one of the top three healthcare concerns among employers. In addition, high blood pressure, along with its complications of stroke and heart attack, accounts for 52 million workdays lost annually. High blood pressure can also develop as a side effect of diabetes.

Some of the medications used to treat high blood pressure can make the eyes more sensitive to light. Therefore, ultraviolet (UV) blocking, glare-minimizing photochromic lenses like Transitions® lenses can help minimize the glare and block damaging UV rays. “These lenses can help those who have high blood pressure see more clearly and protect their eyes from long-term damage,” adds Malinowski.

Research shows us that people are more likely to see their eye care professional than their general healthcare provider for a physical. Therefore, offering and reminding employees to use their vision benefits is a great way to help employees keep track of their health. The next time an eye doctor looks into the eyes of your employees, what will they see?