While it may be true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, to your optometrist, they certainly are windows that provide a clear view of your general body health. During your annual eye exam, your optometrist can not only let you know about your general eye and vision health but can also help you catch many significant health risks and conditions in their early stages.
While it’s generally recommended to see your optometrist for an eye exam at least once a year, it’s interesting to note that the benefits of these appointments go well beyond keeping your eyes in working order. When they carefully examine your eyes, your optometrist can see telltale signs of diseases that may be impacting other areas of the body, which can be critically important, as catching diseases early is often the key to preventing severe outcomes. This is because the eye is the only place in the body where a doctor can look at blood vessels and understand the health of your eyes and body.
Regular trips to see your optometrist could reveal the presence of the following conditions:
High blood pressure.
Elevated blood pressure leads to specific changes to your eye’s blood vessels and leaks in the back of the eye, which tell your optometrist that you may be suffering from high blood pressure.
If you have high cholesterol, you may have either a blue or yellow ring around your cornea. Deposits left behind in the blood vessels that are in a person’s retina can also indicate high cholesterol levels.
This is an autoimmune disease in which your body’s overactive immune system malfunctions and mistakenly attacks and damages healthy nerve fibers in the central nervous system. Those with MS will usually experience inflammation in their optic nerves.
When a brain tumor forms and causes swelling and increased pressure in the brain, your optometrist can see its impact in the back of your eye. There may also be pressure on the optic nerve that your eye doctor can detect. Patients may notice double vision, loss of peripheral vision, or a change to their pupil size, sometimes on just one side.
Diabetes affects the small capillaries in the retina of the eyes. Diabetes may be discovered in an eye exam because the blood vessels may leak blood or a yellowish fluid.
Protruding eyeballs and retracting lids (that’s when the upper or lower eyelid margins are drawn back from the normal position) are signs of an overactive thyroid gland, or hyperthyroidism.
Sexually transmitted diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases can affect various layers of the eye. These include herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and genital warts. In some cases, untreated sexually transmitted diseases can cause blindness and affect many areas of the body.
In the early stages, symptoms can include blur, visual fatigue, double vision, headaches, seeing words appear to double or become double when reading. In later stages of the disease, inflammation of the eye sensitivity to light and floaters (spots in front of the eyes) may develop.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to attack healthy tissues. One of the telltale signs of lupus is swelling in the white part of your eyes during an exam.
This is one of the most painful forms of arthritis. Much like lupus, it can cause your body to take aim at the healthy tissues living in your body. One of the areas in your body where you might feel the most pain is in your eyes. The redness of your eyes can show an optometrist that you might have RA. They can also spot it through any inflammation taking place in the white parts of your eyes.
While there are many forms of cancer that can’t be detected through an eye exam, blood, skin and tissue cancer are different. Your optometrist will not be able to diagnose you, but they can tell you if you should consult with your doctor about the possibility of cancer.
If you’re missing your annual eye exam, you’re also missing out on a clearer picture of your general health and an opportunity for early identification of these health issues. Book and appointment for a comprehensive eye exam now!
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