They say that the eyes offer a window into the soul, but your peepers could also hold some important clues about your overall health. Simply by peering into your eyes, your eye doctor can detect a broad array of health conditions—from hypertension to diabetes to Lupus—that you might not even be aware that you have. So an eye exam can do more than save your vision—it could also save your life.
Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, a nationally recognized Beverly Hills Ophthalmologist, has had many patients come in for a routine eye exam only to leave with a referral to a different medical specialist based on what he can see in their eyes. “There are so many structures that are visible with the eye that with other tissues, we just can’t see through,” Boxer Wachler notes.
Below, Dr. Boxer Wachler outlines some of the underlying systemic issues that can be spotted during a routine eye exam:
1. Diabetes: A routine eye exam can detect blood and other yellowish fluids seeping out of fragile and miniscule vessels in the retinas. This condition, known as diabetic retinopathy, is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S.
2. Cancer: A routine eye exam can spy changes in the structure of the eyes in addition to unusual growths, including a rare form of cancer called ocular melanoma, which develops within the cells that make pigmentation in the eye. Skin cancer can also be detected through an eye exam, as lesions called basal cell carcinomas can show up on the eyelid and can possibly spread to the brain through the eye.
3. Hypertension: A routine eye exam can reveal bleeding in new blood vessels in the eye and bends or kinks in the vessels which normally run straight to the retina—both signs of high blood pressure.
4. Autoimmune Disorders: Inflammation of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye may be a sign of Lupus or other autoimmune disorders.
5. High Cholesterol: A routine eye exam can detect a yellow ring around the cornea, which can be an indicator of high cholesterol—a risk factor for heart attack or stroke. High cholesterol can also be detected by a yellow plaque forming on the blood vessels of the retina.
6. Thyroid Disease: A routine eye exam can detect a bulging of the eyes, which is one of the symptoms of Grave’s Disease – a disorder characterized by an overactive thyroid.
7. Tumors: A visit to the eye doctor can reveal that you have droopy eyelids and pupils that aren’t the same size, which can point to tumors in the neck or even possible aneurysms.
Because so many health problems can be glimpsed through the eyes, Dr. Boxer Wachler urges anybody—even if they don’t have vision problems—to visit their eye doctor at least once every two years. “It’s important to be vigilant and go in for regular eye exams,” he notes. “Most of the conditions don’t hurt when they develop—their symptoms are silent. So if people don’t have a physical ailment or discomfort, they tend to think that everything’s normal,” he says.
Bottom line? Stop putting off that eye examination. Your eyes—and body—will thank you for it.