The eyes: Windows to your health
The eyes can be windows to your overall health, revealing diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. That’s why annual eye exams are an important part of a thorough health maintenance plan.
Any ophthalmologist who does even a routine eye exam can detect disease throughout the body, according to Dr. Rishi P. Singh, an ophthalmologist in the Cleveland Clinic. Eye exams can reveal if there are issues affecting multiple organs or the entire body.
Sometimes problems with your vision can be related to or even caused by a larger health issue even if you are completely asymptomatic.
Ophthalmologists look for a condition called diabetic retinopathy. This condition damages the blood vessels in the eye, and the damage can be observed even before vision is affected. Normally, areas of bleeding and swelling in the retina or abnormal blood vessel development, which are telltale signs of diabetic damage, can be seen during an eye exam. Upon detection, laser treatment and medications to repair blood vessels could be recommended, and if the bleeding is severe enough, surgery could be a treatment option.
The first clue that a patient is suffering from hypertension is damage to their vision that affects the blood flow within the eye caused by high blood pressure. Screening is key since a lot of small vascular changes to the eye don’t affect your vision until very late in the disease. Scenarios like eye strokes associated with carotid artery disease, which demand serious attention, may be a future predictor of cerebral strokes and can be found in a simple routine vision screen. Early attention can save a life.
Early warning signs of such inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and lupus can be seen in the eyes. Inflammatory diseases cause inflammation of the uvea in the middle of the eye, causing uveitis which can cause permanent damage to your eyes if untreated.
Taking time for a yearly eye exam not only protects your eyes, but ultimately can safeguard your overall health. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no risk factors should get a baseline exam at 40 and then screenings at regular intervals. Those who wear corrective lenses should get an exam every year.