You probably know that a regular eye exam is an essential part of protecting your eyesight and keeping your eyes healthy. But you may not realise that it could also detect some major health problems and ensure early and effective treatment.
Diabetes. Sometimes a condition called diabetic retinopathy can cause the blood vessels in the eye to leak blood or a yellowish fluid. Patients may be completely unaware that they have the condition, but it can cause blindness if left untreated. If it is detected in an eye exam the condition can be managed by lifestyle changes, which can prevent further damage.
Hypertension. High blood pressure can be signalled by a weakening or narrowing of the blood vessels in the eye. This seems to be particularly true in people who do not have high risk factors for high blood pressure, and may not realise that they have a problem with blood pressure.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Commonly thought of as a condition causing inflammation of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of the eye, as the inflammatory chemicals can migrate to the eye. Two or three bouts of inflammation over the course of a year may point to arthritis as the cause.
Dementia. Certain types of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease, can affect the visual system before any other symptoms are detected; Parkinson's Disease can also affect the eyesight in this way.
Cancer. It is perhaps not surprising that optometrists can detect tumours specific to the eye, but surprisingly evidence can also be seen of other types of cancer. Changes in a patient's field of vision could be caused by swelling of the optic nerve, which could be evidence of a brain tumour. Certain types of bleeding are indicative of leukaemia, and optometrists have even detected lung or breast cancer that has spread. The best chance of defeating cancer is with early diagnosis, so symptoms spotted in an eye exam can be invaluable in successful treatment.
High cholesterol. Too much cholesterol can lead to heart problems or a stroke, and can sometimes be detected by examination of the eye; plaques of cholesterol can form in the blood vessels, causing temporary loss of eyesight, and the condition can give the cornea a yellowish appearance.
Keep visiting your optometrist and having regular eye exams at clinics like EyeSelect. They may not only help you look after your eyes but also save your life.