They say that eyes are the window to the soul – but did you know that they can also provide important information about your overall health as well?
This is just one of the reasons why medical professionals recommend visiting an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam, every couple of years – even if you aren’t having any problems with your vision.
During a routine eye exam, an optometrist will check your vision – and in the process, they may also notice some early warning signs of some serious health conditions, which you and your GP may not yet have been aware of.
Here are nine serious health issues which may be detected by an optometrist during an eye examination:
1. High blood pressure / high cholesterol: If your optometrist notices narrowing of the arteries, or gnarly, knotted up blood vessels in your eyes, this could indicate problems with high blood pressure and/or cholesterol – both of which could lead to serious problems like heart disease or stroke. So don’t be surprised if a routine eye check results in a recommendation that you visit your GP for further investigation.
2. Brain tumour: If a client presents with a swollen optic nerve, this could indicate pressure from a brain tumour.
Brisbane Optometrist, Aphrodite Livanes, explains: “I had a lady come in for an eye exam, mainly because she’d had persistent headaches. Her GP hadn’t been able to identify the cause, but when I looked inside her eye I saw the optic nerves at the back were swollen and squeezed – so I sent her immediately to the hospital emergency department.
Several weeks later she came back to tell me that she’d been diagnosed with a brain tumour, that they had operated on that very day. She was very grateful as without an eye exam it may not have been picked up in time to save her life.”
3. Diabetes or pre-diabetes: High sugar content in the blood can damage the delicate blood vessels in the retina, causing a small amount of bleeding which is only visible during an optometrist examination. If left untreated, diabetes may affect your vision and can even lead to total blindness.
4. Melanoma: We have been conditioned to look for signs of deadly melanoma on our skin and in particular to keep an eye on moles – but did you know that in some rare cases, melanoma can develop on the retina? Without regular eye checks, you would have no way of knowing that your life could be in danger.
5. Leukemia: Some types of bleeding in the retina, which only become visible during a comprehensive eye exam, may signal leukemia.
6. Multiple Sclerosis (MS): One of the first symptoms of the disease may be a condition called optic neuritis. While this may cause blurred vision, often there are no symptoms at all so it could easily go undetected until a visit to your optometrist. (It’s important to note that optic neuritis may have other causes, and may not necessarily result in a diagnosis of MS).
7. Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus: In addition to causing inflammation of the joints, these conditions may cause inflammation in the eye as well – which may only be spotted during an eye exam.
8. Thyroid disease: Protruding or “googly” eyes may be a sign of a thyroid condition known as Graves Disease.
9.Liver disease: If the whites of the eyes have a yellowish hue, this could indicate high bilirubin levels and liver problems.
Here in Australia, people of all ages are encouraged to have regular eye examinations. For adults under the age of 65, a bulk billed optometrist check is available every three years; if you are over 65, this increases to provide bulk billing for an annual check up.
While your eyesight may seem perfect and you feel in perfect health, there is a lot more at stake. A regular eye exam reveals much more than the state of your vision – it could even save your life!
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