Reasons Eye Exams Are Vital

Eye Health and Eye Exams

Eye health doesn’t just impact your vision, it can reflect the health of your entire body. Your retinas contain many nerves and small blood vessels, making them a great diagnostic tool for early disease detection. This is why getting a thorough eye exam that checks for more than vision correction is one of the best things you can do for your health. In fact, a recent study revealed that patients with high cholesterol saved a staggering $1.7 billion on treatment through early detection from their eye doctor. Learn about the five diagnoses an eye exam can uncover.

1. Diabetes - Even if you feel perfectly healthy, there may be more than meets the eye. An estimated 88 million Americans have prediabetes, but most are unaware since symptoms don’t usually occur until later stages. That said, a quick look at the blood vessels in your eye can help your eye doctor diagnose diabetes or pre-diabetes early on. And, the sooner you detect diseases like diabetes, the better chance you have of making positive lifestyle changes and preventing further complications.

A telltale sign of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy, which causes changes to blood vessels, and can be detected when doctors find light hemorrhaging (bleeding) or small fluid leaks in the capillaries. This occurs when sugar blocks blood vessels that feed into your retina, causing your eyes to grow new, but weaker, vessels in their place. If left untreated, you may experience:

  • Blurry vision
  • Flashing lights
  • Floating spots
  • Glaucoma or cataracts

2. Glaucoma – Ever wonder what that puff of air during your eye exam is for? It's called non-contact tonometry, or NCT, and it calculates your intraocular pressure. High pressure puts you at risk for glaucoma. Measuring this regularly is extremely important because glaucoma doesn't typically show symptoms until you're already suffering from significant vision loss – which is why 20/20 vision doesn't make you exempt from your next eye exam. During a routine eye exam, your eye doctor may express concerns if they notice:

  • High pressure inside your eye
  • An unusual appearance of your optic nerve
  • A limited field of vision
  • An acute or obtuse angle between the iris and cornea
  • Thin corneas

3. Heart Disease – The eye is the only place in the human body where medical professionals can get an unobstructed view of your blood vessels, which can tell them a lot about the state of your heart. An eye doctor can easily detect two heart-related issues during an exam:

  • High Blood Pressure: If your arteries are smaller than your veins, it means that the blood pumped from your heart must squeeze through smaller spaces, causing excess force that could damage the arteries.
  • Blocked Arteries: If plaque builds up in your arteries, it can restrict blood flow to certain parts of your body, including your head. An eye doctor can detect this by looking for small blood clots within the eye.

Detection can be even easier and more effective with recent advancements such as digital retinal imaging, which allows for even more thorough monitoring.

4. Sickle Cell Anemia – Sickle cell anemia is another disease that rarely shows visual symptoms in the early stages. One of the ways eye doctors might diagnose this during an eye exam is if they identify vascular occlusion – the blockage of a blood vessel, usually with a clot. Catching and treating this early could help prevent:

  • Hemorrhaging in the eye
  • Retinal detachment
  • Weakening of the iris
  • Pigmentations in the retina

5. Colon Polyps – Your eye health can even say a lot about colon problems that may be occurring in your body. If your practitioner finds retinal lesions with scarring that weren't caused by an external eye injury, the next step is to check your family history for colon problems. These eye “freckles” may be caused from the same gene that causes colon polyps. While having one doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re destined for colon cancer, it could be an indication of higher risk.

Whether you wear glasses or have 20/20 vision, you can see why it’s important to have a thorough, yearly eye exam that goes beyond getting your prescription right. Arrange your eye exam today and get a closer look at your whole-body health.


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