Regular eye exams are important, a majority of people know that. Eye exams help them see better when it’s time for a prescription adjustment, as well as catch/monitor any eye conditions that can threaten one’s sight.
However, what many people do not know is that eye exams can provide way more about one’s health than just their eye health. In an article by The Healthy, Mark Jacquot, who is an optometrist and the vice president of Vision Care Operations for LensCrafters, states that a “comprehensive eye exam isn’t just about vision… it can provide information about a person’s overall health and serve as an early indicator of other conditions.” During an eye exam, eye doctors check out their patient’s retina, or the light-sensing tissue at the back of the eye, which is the only place in the body that gives doctors a close-up view of blood vessels and nerves without needing to cut open the body.
Due to the closeness and access these exams provide, eye doctors can discover some general health conditions that one may not think possible from an eye doctor. Below are some surprising eye diseases that eye doctors find first:
- Certain types of bleeding in the retina can signal leukemia.
- Brain tumors and other cancers that have spread to the eye can be diagnosed based on changes in a patient’s field of vision.
- Malignant melanoma can strike in the back of the eye, so patients often don’t know it is there unless it is located in the very center of their field of vision.
- One of the first signs of type 2 diabetes can be a small amount of bleeding in the retina, a symptom of diabetic retinopathy. Left untreated, the condition can lead to blindness. But the risk can be cut in half by detecting it early and managing it.
- High blood pressure
- Blood vessel damage such as weakening and narrowing of the arteries can signal high blood pressure.
- Links between heart disease and narrowing of small blood vessels in the retina have been found in studies.
- Multiple sclerosis
- Inflammation of the optic nerve, also known as optic neuritis, can be an indicator of multiple sclerosis (or the result of an infection or other causes).
- Optic neuritis often causes blurred vision, but some people experience no symptoms at all and simply discover the inflammation by getting their eyes examined.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Dry eye is the most common eye issue that rheumatoid arthritis patients experience.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is suspected if a patient has two bouts of iritis in a year or three bouts of it in eighteen months. Iritis is painful inflammation of the iris, or colored part of the eye. This can be due to the high levels of inflammatory chemicals in rheumatoid arthritis patients’ blood migrating to the eyeball.
Regular eye exams are so important because they can discover way more than just eye conditions. Regular eye exams can catch not only sight-threatening diseases but also life-threatening diseases, hence eyes being the windows into one’s general health.