When was your last eye test?
Not only can an optometrist let you know if you need glasses, but they can also detect undiagnosed health conditions well before other symptoms emerge, just by looking at your eyes.
Here are some of the unexpected health problems that Health Partners Optometrist Joanne Tran says might be identified when you’re sitting in the optometry chair.
A person who has diabetes is not able to maintain healthy levels of glucose (the main source of energy for our bodies) in their blood. As glucose levels fluctuate between high and low, the sugar content in the blood can damage blood vessels, including those in the retina (the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye which sends signals to the brain via the optic nerve), causing them to rupture and bleed – a result which can be seen by the optometrist through their equipment.
Diabetes can also cause problems with vision, so sometimes a patient may see an optometrist because they have blurry or double vision and believe they need glasses. Instead, this may be a symptom of diabetes.
The eye is the only organ within the body that veins and arteries can be seen without having to undergo invasive surgery.
Joanne says, “With our equipment we can see the veins and arteries and check if there’s any sort of hardening which is associated with high blood pressure.”
Similar to high blood pressure, high cholesterol can be detected by looking at the veins and arteries in your eye. If cholesterol plaques are becoming lodged within the blood vessel, they can cause a blockage which can lead to heart disease or a stroke. “But if we detect it early,” Joanne says, “we can let your GP know and they can modify the issue with cholesterol medication to reduce further blockages.”
Arthritis is an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation all around the body, including in the eye.
There are different types of arthritis, some forms can increase the pressure of the fluid in your eye, leading to nerve damage.
Some patients are unaware of any arthritis symptoms until after their eye exam.
Tumors can form in all parts of the body, including your eyes, without you being aware of them.
“It’s not until we look at the back of the eye, or behind the eye on the visual pathway, that we might see a tumor,” Joanne says.
A tumor is simply a group of abnormal cells that don’t die, as our normal cells do. This means that the tumor continues to grow and more and more cells join the mass. Not all tumors are cancerous, but you should always seek treatment and advice from your GP.
How often you should have your eyes tested depends on your age and circumstances:
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