General Eye Exams - What They Can Reveal
Are you intimidated by eye exams? Well, maybe the importance of eye exams, as outlined here, will motivate you to go for your next eye exam!
Why Are Eye Exams Important?
Routine eye exams are important not only for ensuring that your eyes are healthy, but also that you are healthy overall. Eye exams can detect much beyond a 20/20 vision. No doubt, they check for refractive errors like myopia and hyperopia. But, they also catch the early signs of certain eye problems and health problems even before you notice any symptom. In such cases, they save you from a lot of damage that may occur in the future.
The following are a few such problems that a general eye exam can detect, most of them may surprise you!
- Diabetes - Diabetes may reveal itself in the form of leaking blood vessels in the eye, an early symptom of diabetic retinopathy. When detected early, diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes. If left undetected and untreated, diabetic retinopathy may cause irreversible damage, even, blindness. It is very common to see the signs of the disease during an eye exam - even before diabetes is diagnosed.
- Hypertension - Damaged blood vessels in the eyes including bends and tears and narrowing of the arteries can indicate the onset of high blood pressure.
- High Cholesterol and Heart Disease - According to studies, narrowing of small blood vessels in the retina is linked to heart troubles, especially in people who do not have genetic and other risks for heart disease. If the cornea appears yellowish or a yellow ring is seen around it, it may indicate elevated cholesterol level. Plaques in the retinal blood vessels also have the same indication.
- Thyroid disorders - A condition called Graves Disease, which has symptoms like bulging eyeballs, may indicate a problem with the thyroid glands.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis - Around one-fourth of rheumatoid arthritis patients have eye problems including dry eyes. Also, if inflammation of the iris or iritis occurs frequently, it may be an indication of rheumatoid arthritis. This stems from the fact that these people have high levels of inflammatory chemicals in their blood which may affect the eyes and the joints. RA is suspected if iritis is seen twice a year or thrice in 18 months.
- Autoimmune Disorders - Just like RA, other autoimmune disorders like Lupus show themselves as inflammation in the eyes.
- Multiple Sclerosis - Another disease that is detected due to inflammation of the eye - this time, the inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis) can be a sign. Optic neuritis is seen in around 75 percent of MS patients and it is the first symptom in 25 percent of them. Optic neuritis, however, may not always indicate MS; it may be due to some other infection.
- Tumors - Neck tumors or aneurysms show themselves in the form of irregularly shaped pupils and drooping eyelids.
- Cancer - Cancer, when spread to the eyes, can be detected in a general eye exam. Brain tumors, skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, everything can be revealed in an eye exam. Ocular melanoma, that causes pigmentation in the eye can be a sign of cancer. Skin cancer can be detected by basal cell carcinomas that spread to the eyelids. Brain tumors can cause changes in the field of vision. Leukemia can be detected by some type of retinal bleeding. An examination of the back of the eye can reveal malignant melanoma.
The Bottom Line - Perhaps, the eyes have been rightly considered the windows to health. A general eye exam may reveal so much about your health - and sometimes, just in time to save your life! So, better not to forego your routine eye exam.