What Eye Exams Can Reveal About Your Overall Health
Good vision doesn’t necessarily guarantee good eye health. Diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure are some of the conditions that eye doctors look for when examining a patient’s eyes. A comprehensive eye exam includes several tests to identify not only vision changes but also signs of underlying health issues. This article explores three severe conditions that a comprehensive eye exam can detect and what an eye doctor can see during an exam.
Diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels and is a major cause of blindness among American adults. Over one-third of diabetics aged 40 and over experience vision loss, yet only half of all people with diabetes visit their eye doctors regularly. To detect signs of diabetes, an eye doctor uses eye drops that dilate the pupils to examine the areas behind them. The doctor may detect blocked, swollen, or bleeding blood vessels, damage to the retina or optic nerve, and clouding of the lens or cornea, which can indicate cataracts. For those who prefer to avoid eye drops, some doctors offer imaging or retinal scans that produce detailed photos of the retina, which the doctor can scrutinize.
High blood pressure can affect the condition and behavior of the delicate blood vessels behind the eye. Catching it early is crucial, as high blood pressure could lead to stroke and/or heart attacks if left untreated. During an eye exam, an eye doctor looks for signs of hypertension, including damaged or swollen blood vessels, lack of blood to the retina, flame-shaped hemorrhages or bleeding in the eye, thickening of the small arteries, and swollen optic nerves due to blocked blood flow or kinked and twisted blood vessels in the retina.
People with high cholesterol may be at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, a condition that occurs when pressure damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. During a comprehensive eye exam, an eye doctor looks for signs of high cholesterol, including a thin white or bluish-gray ring around the cornea, bright yellowish dots or crystals that indicate cholesterol plaque buildup, soft yellow lumps on the eyelids and in the corners of the eyes, and hardened blood vessels in the retina.
Eye doctors use specialised equipment to see into the eyes with greater clarity than a family doctor. To get a complete picture of your health, it’s important to schedule a regular comprehensive eye exam around the same time as your overall physical. An eye exam can be just as important in detecting and diagnosing serious health issues as it is in keeping your vision sharp