Your eyes may or may not be the window to your soul. We haven’t come across clear medical evidence for that claim one way or another, so we’ll leave that claim to the poets. We can, however, say with confidence that your eyes are windows to a whole range of health issues that can affect the rest of your body.
Most of us visit our eye doctor to take care of our vision. But an eye exam, especially a dilated eye exam can tell us so much more about our health than just our vision.
Here are a few examples of health conditions that can be detected, sometimes early on, through an eye exam.
1. High Blood Pressure
About 75 million American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. That’s about 1 in 3 adult Americans. Patients with high blood pressure can have unusual bends, kinks or tears in the vessels in their eyes. These are typically visible during a dilated eye exam, and can help to give a clear picture of your risk of stroke, aneurysm or other complications.
About 30 million Americans — close to 10% of the population — have Diabetes. The condition can cause the capillaries in your eyes to leak blood or yellowish fluid, causing a medical condition called diabetic retinopathy.
It’s critical that people with diabetes have regular eye exams. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness for Americans between the ages of 20 and 64. As with nearly all diseases, early detection leads to better outcomes.
Let’s get back to those blood vessels in your retina. Detecting a theme here? Sometimes, especially in older patients, those blood vessels can exhibit blockages or clots that are visible during a dialed eye exam. Those clots can point to an increased risk for stroke.
4. Lyme Disease or Crohn’s
Recurring eye inflammation can be linked to a number of chronic conditions, including Crohn’s and Lyme disease. There are lots of other reasons you could have red or inflamed eyes, but if you’re getting regular inflammations, it’s likely something your eye doctor will want to consider.
5. Thyroid Disease
Retracting eyelids and prominent eyes are classic signs of hyperthyroidism. If your eye doctor is concerned about this during your exam, they might refer you for additional testing that can confirm the diagnosis.
6. Multiple Sclerosis
There’s some evidence to suggest that the further north you live from the equator, the higher your risk of Multiple Sclerosis. And in the Pacific Northwest, we have one of the highest risks in the country.
There’s also clear medical evidence that early diagnosis and treatment of MS has significant benefits. The earliest signs of MS can often be related to loss of vision, and if an eye doctor suspects a patient’s vision loss could be due to MS, they may refer the patient for an MRI to confirm the diagnosis.
The Benefits of Early Detection
Nearly every health condition can benefit from early diagnosis, and early detection and diagnosis can often be the difference between an easily treated issue and something more serious.
Having regular eye exams can play a critical role in not just your vision, but your overall health. And if you’re overdue for your next eye exam, make an appointment today. We’d love to see you.