Do you remember that children’s song Dem Bones that begins, “The toe bone’s connected to the foot bone” and continues “connecting” one bone to the next? It’s easy to think of your body as a collection of separate parts, but this song has it right. Protecting your eye health can pay unexpected health dividends.
An Eye Exam Can Tell You a Lot About Your Overall Health
In addition to checking for glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye diseases, a comprehensive eye exam could give you an important heads-up on a problem affecting your overall health. Your eyes function as an early warning system, letting your eye doctor discover many problems before they’re detectable elsewhere in your body. Discovering a problem early could make all the difference for you and your family.
How can the eyes reveal health problems? During an eye exam is the only time a doctor has an unobstructed look at nerves, blood vessels and connecting tissue without surgery. The eye is an integral part of the larger nervous system, with the same microscopic tissues as the body’s other major organs. Abnormalities found during eye exams can indicate previously unknown health problems.
Diabetes can cause damage or changes in the retina’s blood vessels even before a blood sugar test signals diabetes. An ophthalmologist can be the first to diagnose diabetes, spotting the signs of diabetic retinopathy during the dilated portion of an eye exam. Since diabetes can cause lost or impaired vision, learning about and controlling blood sugar becomes critically important. Diabetics must be especially vigilant about scheduling regular eye checkups.
Vision problems can be one of the symptoms of brain cancer. A tumor close to the optic nerve could cause impaired vision or complete vision loss.
Regularly wearing sunglasses can help prevent another type of cancer. Your eyes can be as damaged by ultraviolet rays as your skin. A relatively small number of people (5-7%) will develop a freckle at the rear of the eye. Your eye doctor will want to keep an eye on this in case it gets larger or changes shape, just as moles on your skin should be routinely examined.
Breast cancer patients taking Plaquenil should have an eye exam once or twice a year. The back of the eye exhibits the first sign of drug toxicity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a fancy name for dry eyes, is common. Most people will suffer from that gritty, burning feeling more than once during their lives. At Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute, we have a range of treatments for dry eyes.
However, many people aren’t aware that dry eyes are also a common symptom of both rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome. Eyes can become inflamed, red and painful. Left untreated, the cornea can be damaged.
Crohn’s and Lyme Disease
A recurring problem with red eyes indicates inflammation. Crohn’s disease and Lyme disease are only two of the diseases that could be the root cause of frequent red eyes.
Blocked blood vessels in the eye must be taken seriously. The patient could be at high risk of suffering a stroke. After a stroke, vision problems are more common when the stroke was on the right side. Patients can experience problems with eye nerves and muscles, lose a full range of vision or be unable to correctly interpret what they see in the brain.
High Blood Pressure
An eye exam can detect high blood pressure. You’ll be referred to your own doctor to discuss necessary treatment and lifestyle changes.
Adults over 40 are most at risk of losing side vision. It can develop slowly over time. As the condition progresses, range of vision shrinks until it’s like looking through a tunnel. Tunnel vision is often associated with glaucoma, but other medical conditions can also be responsible.
- Damaged optic nerve: Either disease or trauma can damage the optic nerve which carries signals to the brain from the eyes. In glaucoma, increased pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve and, left untreated, can cause blindness.
- Damaged retina: A damaged retina can affect your peripheral vision. There is also a rare, genetic disorder, retinitis pigmentosa, which causes tunnel vision and poor night vision.
- Brain damage: Tunnel vision can be linked to a stroke, bleeding in the brain, a tumor or trauma.
- Temporary loss of peripheral vision: Stress, rage, panic, drugs or alcohol can cause temporary tunnel vision. Normal vision usually returns without treatment.
As you can see, your eyes are an excellent barometer of your overall health. Protect both your eye health and your overall health by making regular appointments with your eye doctor.
We hope you have found this useful, but this article is not intended to replace a visit to your doctor for medical treatment. For more information, call Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute.