Some people may wait to have their eyes examined until they notice vision changes, but did you know that a comprehensive eye exam could detect signs of health risks? “I have had several patients that were unaware of high blood pressure, diabetes or at risk of a stroke while examining their eyes,” says Dr. Stewart Shofner. He continues, “I am able to examine blood vessels, nerves and other tissues, which can reveal what is going on in the rest of the body and provide feedback to patients to improve their overall health.”
Most eye care professionals recommend that you have a comprehensive eye exam everyone to two years, depending on your age, risk factors and whether you currently wear corrective lenses. Children need regular eye exams to detect vision problems that may interfere with learning. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6.
It’s been said that eyes are the window to the soul…and your overall health as well. For some conditions, changes in the eye may be the first sign of trouble. Here are just a few diseases that can be detected and with early diagnosis can be life saving.
Alzheimer’s Disease. Most recently the American Academy of Ophthalmology released information on a new study that reveals how an eye scan may be an inexpensive way to test for early Alzheimer’s disease. The study builds on research showing that closely examining the retina might help detect Alzheimer’s in its early stages. The retina is made up of brain tissue. Retinas are connected to the brain via the optic nerve. Changes in the brain from dementia, including Alzheimer’s, can also show up in the retina.
Arthritis—autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, more specifically, Spondyloarthritis causes inflammation in the joints and also the eyes.
Diabetes. Diabetes affects the small capillaries in the retina of the eyes.These blood vessels may leak blood or a yellowish fluid, and this may be discovered in an eye exam. People that are diagnosed in this beginning stage of diabetes potentially can avoid vision loss and other serious complications. Some may have a condition called diabetic retinopathy.
High Blood Pressure (Stroke Risk). Inflammation of blood vessels at the back of the eyes is a clue for your eye doctor about potential high blood pressure. Sudden vision changes could also mean a stroke perceived as a “malfunction” in prescription glasses or contacts.
Skin Cancer. Malignant melanoma can strike in back of the eye, and patients often don’t know it is there unless the cancer is in the very center of their field of vision. An eye doctor can see freckles that form at the backs of the eyes (caused by sun exposure over time). Sometimes they develop into cancerous patches that your doctor can remove early on.
STDs— Herpes can cause a serious infection in the eye—or blind you. A herpes infection in the eye can permanently scar the cornea. Syphilis, gonorrhoea and several others may also be detected during an eye exam and can prevent further issues if treated.
Additionally, loss of side vision, which is also a common glaucoma symptom can indicate a more serious health issue such asa head trauma, brain tumor, or brain bleed. Brain tumors cause swelling in the brain and near the back of the eyes, which causes changes to the optic nerve. An ophthalmologist or eye doctor can detect this issue before it becomes dangerous.
The retina is the only place in your body that gives doctors a close-up view of your blood vessels and nerves without your needing to be cut open. Even if you are not experiencing any changes in your vision, don’t delay; schedule your comprehensive eye exam today. Shofner Vision Center is located in downtown Nashville, which makes it convenient for locals to pop in on their lunch break or after work. Call (615) 340-4733 or schedule your appointment online.