What can your eyes tell you about your health?

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A comprehensive eye exam can reveal eye issues. However, they can do much more than that. Comprehensive eye exams can also show health problems that could be unrelated to your eyes. This is why getting regular comprehensive eye exams is vital not just for your eyes, but also for your general well-being.

Curious to know what your eyes can tell you about your health? Here are four serious health issues that a comprehensive eye exam can reveal.

1. Diabetes

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Diabetes can cause a complication that affects the eyes known as diabetic retinopathy, which is the leading cause of blindness in American adults.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when increased blood sugar results in blockages to the blood vessels in the retina. Blocked blood vessels prevent the retina from getting the blood supply it needs to stay healthy. The blocked blood vessels can also swell and leak fluid into the retina.

Through a comprehensive eye exam, your eye care professional (ECP) can detect eye abnormalities like blocked blood vessels in your eyes. If you have diabetic retinopathy, you may also experience symptoms such as blurry vision and dark spots or strings in your vision (floaters).

If you experience these symptoms, consult your ECP immediately. Doing so will help prevent vision loss.

2. Cancer

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Your eyes can show signs of cancer, and comprehensive eye exams can detect several types of cancer.

For example, a brain tumor can compress the optic nerves. The pressure on your optic nerves increases as a brain tumor grows, resulting in gradual vision loss, blind spots, and then total blindness.

A comprehensive eye exam can also allow your ECP to detect ocular melanoma, which is a rare type of cancer. Ocular melanoma affects the eyes and the cells in the eyes that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of your eyes, skin, and hair.

Leukemia can also manifest in the eyes through retinal lesions, which are tumors that grow in the eyes. ECPs can detect these lesions upon performing a comprehensive eye exam.

3. Multiple sclerosis

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a serious, degenerative, and disabling disease of your central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord). MS causes severe nerve damage throughout the body, so it naturally affects the eyes as well. As such, vision problems and other eye issues are common in people who have MS. Vision problems are also usually the first indication of multiple sclerosis.

Vision-related symptoms of MS include blurry vision, prolonged double vision, and either partial or complete loss of vision. More often than not, vision loss associated with MS affects only one eye at a time.

If you notice these symptoms, especially if it involves just one eye, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at once. In the event your ECP does detect possible signs of MS, you’ll be able to get an early diagnosis and thus early treatment.

4. Hypertension

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Hypertension or high blood pressure can cause problems for your arteries, your heart, your brain, and even your eyes. High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in your eyes and leads to eye issues such as:

  • Damage to the blood vessels in your retina (hypertensive retinopathy)
  • A buildup of fluid under the retina that results in blurry vision (choroidopathy)
  • Bleeding within the eye due to optic nerve damage caused by lack of blood supply (optic neuropathy)

By examining the blood vessels in your retina, your ECP can detect signs of hypertension in its early stages, which is especially important because hypertension can go undetected and damage your entire body for years without you even knowing. If detected early, you can avoid the complications of hypertension through various lifestyle changes.

Conclusion

Regular comprehensive eye exams are crucial for both your eye health and your overall health. Avoid skipping your next comprehensive eye exam. It will only take a few hours out of your day but end up saving your life.