April 30, 2019
You may think your annual vision test is strictly an “optional” screening when it comes to the list of tests recommended by health care professionals. If your insurance doesn’t cover an eye exam and there isn’t a noticeable problem with your sight, skipping this test may sound like a simple way to stretch your healthcare budget.
But wait…do you know that there are serious conditions and diseases affecting other parts of your body that can be identified by your optometrist when she examines your eyes? It’s true – your eyes aren’t just the windows to your soul, they also gauge your overall health.
A patient presented with a tiny, almost invisible blood clot in one of the veins of his retina, which was an immediate concern for his eye doctor. These tiny clots often indicate the presence of other larger clots elsewhere in the body. She advised him to follow up with a cardiologist as soon as possible. Sure enough, his carotid artery was almost completely blocked by a much bigger clot. He was at high risk for a stroke. He underwent emergency surgery and is now out of immediate danger.
Eye doctors often find evidence of diabetes when dilating the eyes of patients with diabetic retinopathy, a condition that causes damage or negative changes to the delicate blood vessels in the retina. Diabetic retinopathy can appear in the eye before measurable changes to blood sugar readings are detected. If the disease is caught and treated early, vision loss and other serious complications can be avoided. Blood vessel damage in the eye can also lead to a diagnosis of high blood pressure. The connection between heart disease and the narrowing of blood vessels in the eye is particularly high among people who have no traditional heart disease risk factors.
Loss of side vision is a common symptom of glaucoma, but it can also be a red flag for issues in the brain such as tumors, brain bleeds or previous undetected small strokes. Cancers of various types present in the eye, from metastatic breast and lung cancer to leukemia, ocular cancer and brain tumors.
Optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve, is one of the early warning signs for multiple sclerosis. This condition appears in 75% of MS patients, and is the first symptom linked with the disease in 25% of cases. People with rheumatoid arthritis have a high level of inflammatory chemicals in their blood, which can cause chronic dry eye or iritis, a painful inflammation of the iris. Other autoimmune diseases such as Grave’s Disease, myasthenia gravis or Crohn’s disease can be spotted when patients suffer from bulging eyes, double vision or inflammation in the front or the back of the eye, respectively. Conditions such as sickle cell disease, thyroid disorders, arthritis, jaundice and even high cholesterol have manifestations that appear during a vision test.
Why is it that so many conditions can be spotted by irregularities in our eyes? The eye is the only place in the body where a doctor has an unobstructed view of the blood vessels, connective tissues and nerves without performing surgery. Eyes have the same microscopic tissue as other major organs and are important components of the nervous system. Changes evident in the eye are usually similar to changes in other parts of the body we can’t readily see, giving us an opportunity to identify problems non-invasively.
Don’t take unnecessary chances with your health! The optometrists at Pro-Optix Eye Care serve the Tanglewood and Galleria Area because we want to make it easier for each of our local residents to get a complete vision test every year. Their lives may depend on it.
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