Healthy Living

What An Eye Exam Can Tell About Your Health

Imagine walking into an eye clinic for a routine eye exam and walking out with a completely unexpected diagnosis.

People usually visit their eye doctor for eyeglass prescriptions or common eye health conditions like strained eyes or eye fatigue. But often, an eye doctor can also catch other health problems for which you may not even know you had symptoms.

“Your eyes are a window into your overall health,” says Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, an ophthalmologist based in Beverly Hills. “It’s important to get your eyes checked even if you don’t think you have vision problems.”

While eye exams seem like something only seniors do, Web MD recommends adults should get a full eye exam at least once every two years.  However, if you have eye-related health conditions in your family history, schedule an appointment at least once a year.

Boxer Wachler says conditions like skin cancers and high cholesterol can all be detected through the retinas and eyelids, along with serious eye conditions like glaucoma (damage to your eye’s optic nerve), blindness and cataracts (the clouding of our lens).

Here are 14 health problems Boxer Wachler says an eye doctor can catch — even if you don’t feel or see any symptoms beforehand: 

A routine eye exam can detect blood and other yellowish fluids seeping out of fragile vessels in the retinas. Eye doctors call this diabetic retinopathy, and it just happens to be the leading cause of blindness in the U.S..

The structure of our eyes and any unusual growth can be detected with an eye exam. Skin cancer, for example, can also be seen through an eye exam if abnormal tissue called basal cell carcinomas show up on the eyelid.

Getting your eyes checked routinely can also show bleeding in blood vessels in the eye, and bends or kinks in vessels which normally run straight to the retina. This could be a sign of high blood pressure.

Autoimmune Disorders:
An eye exam can also catch inflammation of the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye, which can be a sign of lupus or other autoimmune disorders.

High Cholesterol:
If your eye doctor notices any yellow rings around the cornea, this can be an indicator of high cholesterol. Not only does high cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease or stroke, but it can also form a yellow plaque on the blood vessels of the retina.

Thyroid Disease:
An eye examiner can also find “bulging” eyes, which is one of the symptoms of Graves’ disease — a disorder characterized by an overactive thyroid.

Eye exams can also reveal droopy eyelids and pupils that aren’t the same size. This condition can sometimes point to tumours in the neck or even possible aneurysms.

Acne Rosacea:
An eye exam can detect clogged meibomian glands (glands in the rim of the eyelid), which can cause blepharitis — a type of inflammation of the eyelid. This inflammation may be a sign you have a skin condition that causes redness called acne rosacea.

A change in the skin of your eyelids can be a symptom of eczema. Eczema is a medical skin condition that can cause skin to become irritated, inflamed and flaky.

When you go in for an eye exam, the doctor can also make out an infection called cysticercosis — which is caused by the pork tapeworm.

Sickle Cell Disease:
A regular eye exam can also catch inflammation of the blood vessels of your retina. This inflammation is often a symptom of a hereditary blood disorder called sickle cell disease.

Liver Disease:
An eye doctor can also notice changes in the colour of the eyes. If your eyes are high in bilirubin (a yellowish pigment) and look yellow, it could be an indication of liver disease.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:
Getting your eyes checked can detect inflammation of the iris, a condition called intraocular inflammation which is often caused by IBS.

Some STDs:
Chlamydia, for example, can be detected from a routine eye exam. Often the symptoms of pink eye mirrors the symptoms of Chlamydia.