There are many misconceptions associated with eye exams. Many amongst us believe that eye exams are necessary only if you are experiencing problems in your vision.
Comprehensive eye exams, in fact, should be a part of your routine medical investigations. Similar to how you would pay a visit to your physician every year for an overall checkup, it is pertinent that you schedule an eye exam with your ophthalmologist every year as well.
The CDC and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) especially recommend annual eye exams for everyone. Eye exams do not only help monitor your eye health, but they can also help diagnose an array of common ailments that are not related to the eyes.
The following is a list of the top five ailments that eye exams can detect that may go undiagnosed otherwise.
Diabetes is a chronic metabolic ailment that affects over 422 million people worldwide, according to the WHO. This ailment is characterized by persistently elevated glucose levels in the blood, which leads to internal organ damage over the years.
Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate glucose levels in the blood. A lack of insulin, therefore, results in diabetes. There are two variants of the ailment, namely, type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The former variant, also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, results because the body is unable to manufacture insulin. In the latter variant, the more common type, the body does not produce sufficient insulin or develops resistance to it.
Much like other metabolic diseases, diabetes harbors a significant impact on other organs, including the eyes.
Diabetes affects the capillaries in the retina and causes them to either bleed or release a yellowish fluid. This is a common presenting sign of uncontrolled diabetes as well as undiagnosed diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy, if left untreated, can lead to blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment, however, may reduce the risk significantly.
Controlling blood glucose levels helps prevent or delay the appearance of such symptoms. An eye exam can help diagnose the ailment in its early stages. For this reason, diabetics are advised to get their eyes examined regularly in addition to keeping their glucose levels within limits.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a severe medical condition that affects over 1.13 billion people globally, according to the WHO.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the circulating blood against the walls of the body’s blood vessels—hypertension results when the blood pressure being exerted is too high.
Hypertension significantly increases the risks of heart, brain, kidney, and other diseases and is a significant cause of premature death worldwide.
A common presenting sign of hypertension is the redness of the eyes. Redness may result due to a multitude of reasons. However, redness resulting from hypertension is due to kinks and tears in the blood vessels of the eyes. Alterations in the blood vessel flow result in capillary rupture as well as weakening or narrowing of the arteries.
If redness is accompanied by a loss of vision, extreme light sensitivity, intense headaches, and more, it is best to immediately consult an eye doctor. An eye exam can distinguish the symptoms and thus help in diagnosing hypertension.
Cancer encompasses a large group of diseases that result when a tissue or organ of the body grows uncontrollably. The cells of the growing tissue develop a mass that invades adjoining parts of the body and spreads to other organs.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death across the globe, accounting for approximately 9.6 million deaths in 2018, according to the WHO.
Eye exams can help diagnose certain types of cancers owing to their presentations in the eyes.
Some bleeding patterns may indicate the presence of a hematological condition such as coagulation disorders, or even cancerous diseases like leukemia. Retinal bleeding, for instance, is a prominent sign of leukemia.
Similarly, brain tumors can be detected based on changes in vision. Eye exams may also help diagnose certain types of skin cancers as well as cancers of the breast and prostate owing to the presence of a characteristic stain.
Regular eye exams, therefore, are especially recommended for everyone with a family history of cancer.
Anemia is a serious global public health issue that affects 42% of children under five years of age and 40% of pregnant women worldwide, according to the WHO.
Anemia is a condition in which the hemoglobin content or the number of red blood cells of the blood is lower than normal, owing to a deficiency of one or more essential nutrients. These include iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and proteins. Anemia may also result due to hemoglobinopathies as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, etc.
Hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen in the body via the blood. Reduced hemoglobin in the cells or abnormal red blood cells results in a decreased oxygen-carrying capacity. This further leads to symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, etc.
Eye exams can help diagnose anemia by distinguishing the vascularization of the eyes and whether they are red or not. If you are wondering who to go to, look into ophthalmologists in Austin, Texas eyeinstitute.com.
Autoimmune disorders result when the body’s immune system is abnormally overactive or inactive. In cases of overactivity, the immune system ends up attacking the body’s own tissues. Inactivity or immunodeficiency, on the other hand, increases the body’s vulnerability to infections.
Common autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, Graves’ disease, psoriasis, and more.
Eye exams can help detect autoimmune ailments as most of them present with eye symptoms. For instance, dry eyes are a common presentation of rheumatoid arthritis along with inflammation of the iris. Similarly, bulging eyes are a symptom of Graves’ disease.
Although not a preventive procedure, eye exams can help in the early diagnosis of many common ailments. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential when it comes to disease management. Eye exams, therefore, can contribute to the implementation of measures to monitor their evolution.
Vision is an essential sense that enables us to witness the beauty of the world. Therefore, you must take care of your eyes. If you have been calling off your eye exam for a while now, it is time to schedule an appointment today.