Did you know that your eyes give an indication of your overall health? Your eyes are connected to many other systems in the human body, making routine eye exams an important part of preventative healthcare, no matter what your age or physical health.
Besides testing your vision, a comprehensive eye exam also gives your optometrist a close-up look at the inside of your eyes, including blood vessels, veins and nerves that may contain clues to conditions that can affect your overall health.
Because some of these conditions can be quite serious, an eye exam could actually help to save your life. The chances of successful treatment are always better when an issue is found sooner rather than later.
A few of the diseases that can be detected by an eye exam include the following:
An optometrist is often the first health-care professional to detect high blood pressure by looking at the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. An eye exam helps to identify risks for stroke or heart attack before they happen.
An optometrist can see indicators of diabetes in your eyes before the disease is formally diagnosed because the disease can cause the small blood vessels in the retina or at the back of the eye to bleed or leak. Diabetes can also cause swelling of the macula, which is the most sensitive part of the retina.
Early detection not only reduces the risk of vision loss but can also minimize the risk of complications such as heart disease and kidney failure.
A comprehensive eye exam can spot unusual structures or growths within the eye, including ocular melanoma, a rare form of cancer that can be life-threatening if allowed to spread. Brain tumors can cause loss of peripheral vision or damage the nerves that supply the muscles of the eyes and cause abnormal eye movements, double vision or other changes to your eyesight.
Skin cancer can also be found during an eye exam. Lesions call basal cell carcinomas can show up on the eyelid and could possibly spread to the brain through the eye.
Other health conditions that may show symptoms in the eyes include the following:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Thyroid disease
- Sickle cell disease
- Liver disease
- High cholesterol
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Other neurological or brain disorders
Sight tests will only gauge how well you see, but a comprehensive eye exam can help to detect these conditions because it evaluates total eye health.
Adults should have an eye exam every two years, or as recommended by their optometrist. Those over 65 years of age should have an eye exam every year. Children between the ages of two and five should have at least one eye exam before starting school and be examined yearly after starting school. An infant’s first eye exam should happen between six and nine months of age.