We hear a lot about early detection when it comes to successfully treating diseases and health conditions.
Did you know that your annual visit for a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist also serves as an early detection checkup for a variety of health conditions?
The eyes are the single place in the human body where there’s an accessible, unobstructed view of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue—without the need for surgery. During a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist can gain an overall understanding of your health and see the beginning stages of many health concerns before they manifest in painful symptoms.
Early detection of health concerns is a big benefit to optometric patients because knowledge is power. Knowing about a health condition early gives more time for effective treatment.
Following are 7 health conditions your optometrist can detect during your annual comprehensive eye exam.
Blurry vision is an early sign of diabetes. As the tiny blood vessels in the eye react to high blood sugar levels, they can leak and bulge, resulting in blurred vision. In a typical year, U.S. optometrists diagnose more than 300,000 patients who didn’t yet know they had diabetes or were pre-diabetic. This information can save lives and help patients by giving them an early diagnosis so they can stabilize their blood glucose levels and prevent further vision problems and other health challenges associated with diabetes.
Many forms of cancer metastasize to the eye. During an annual eye exam, your optometrist will examine your eyes for signs indicating this. The two most common cancers that show signs of metastasis to the eyes are lung and breast cancer. Tumors from brain cancers may press on the optic nerves and show signs of their presence that way. Other cancers, such as leukemia, might show signs in the eyes as well—such as unusual retinal bleeding.
- High blood pressure
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of American adults – 47 percent –have high blood pressure, but approximately 20 percent don’t know that they have the condition. Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts people at increased risk for stroke and heart disease. By examining the blood vessels that supply the eyes, your optometrist can identify the warning signs of hypertension so you can take steps to get your blood pressure under control and avoid the health problems uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause.
- Thyroid disease
The thyroid gland is small in size but mighty in function. The hormones it produces regulate many critical bodily functions. If the thyroid gland is overactive – a condition called hyperthyroidism – it can affect the eyes and even result in vision loss. Graves’ disease is an overactivity of the thyroid due to an abnormal immune response that targets the connective tissues of the eyes. The symptoms include eyes that are painful, puffy, bulging, red, dry and light-sensitive. If such swelling goes untreated, it can compress the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.
- Myasthenia gravis
An autoimmune disease that attacks the neuromuscular system, myasthenia gravis can impact any muscle in the body. However, the muscles responsible for eye and eyelid function, facial expressions, and swallowing are often the first impacted. About 75 percent of patients with this disease experience ocular manifestations. Often, the first symptom patients notice is a drooping of the eyelid or eyelids, caused by weakness of the eye muscles.
- Multiple sclerosis
About 400,000 people in the U.S. are affected by multiple sclerosis, which is often first detectable in the eyes. Patients sometimes suffer from a condition called optic neuritis, in which one or both eyes experience a painful loss of vision that lasts from a few days to a few weeks. After an acute episode of optic neuritis, about 70% of people recover, but it’s often a sign of the early stages of multiple sclerosis and must be monitored closely.
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Though it’s early in the clinical study of the connection between the eyes and Alzheimer’s, there is evidence to indicate that retinal eye scans may be able to detect specific changes in blood vessels that indicate early stages of Alzheimer’s. Specifically, a reduced density in the capillaries supplying the eyes is a telltale sign of the condition. With early detection and early treatment, it may be possible to slow the progression of this devastating disease.
Is it time to schedule your or your loved one’s annual comprehensive eye exam? Call us today!