What Your Eyes Say About Your Health
Regular eye examinations are not only essential for good vision but also help you maintain your health. Changes in your eyes can be the first signs of serious diseases and conditions ranging from diabetes to multiple sclerosis to high blood pressure.
Eye Exams Provide Valuable Information About Your Visual and General Health
In addition to detecting vision problems, an eye exam can also help your eye doctor spot symptoms of general health conditions and diseases, including:
- Diabetes. Blurry vision doesn't always mean that you need a new eyeglass or contact lens prescription. If you have untreated diabetes, blurriness can be caused by swelling in the lenses of your eyes. The lenses are clear discs inside your eyes that focus light rays on your retinas. High blood sugar causes water to build up in the lenses, causing blurriness. Your ophthalmologist may also suspect that you have diabetes if tiny blood vessels in your retinas leak fluid or blood. Although leaking vessels can affect your vision, vision changes may not be obvious at first.
- Lyme Disease. Conjunctivitis (pink eye), sensitivity to light, floaters, and inflammation of any part of the eye may occur if you have Lyme disease. You may be more likely to develop optic neuritis, an inflammation that affects the optic nerve. The nerve transmits light impulses from your retina to your brain and plays a crucial role in vision. Symptoms of optic neuritis include pain, blurred vision, loss of color vision, and flashing lights.
- High Blood Pressure. Arteries or veins in your eyes that are larger or smaller than normal can be signs of high blood pressure, as can tiny blood clots. Since the clots won't necessarily impair your vision if they're small enough, you may not know that you have a problem unless you visit the ophthalmologist.
- Multiple Sclerosis. Optic neuritis can also occur if you have multiple sclerosis (MS). The disease affects the central nervous system and may cause numbness, tingling, muscle spasms, and balance problems in addition to optic neuritis. Other vision problems that may affect people who have MS include double vision and nystagmus (involuntary eye movements).
- High Cholesterol. A change in the appearance of your cornea, the clear layer of tissue that covers the iris and pupil, may be a sign that you have high cholesterol. Cholesterol deposits tend to collect in the outer edges of the cornea, creating a blue ring around it.
- Thyroid Disease. Thyroid eye disease (TED) affects between 25 to 50 percent of people diagnosed with a thyroid problem, according to a November 2018 article in the Review of Ophthalmology. TED can cause a variety of eye symptoms, including dry eye, redness, gritty eyes, light sensitivity, tightening of the eyelids, double vision, swelling, misalignment, and bulging eyes.
- Blockages in Your Arteries. A tiny blood clot in your eye may be a sign that you have a clogged artery. The clots can form when small pieces of plaque inside an artery break off and travel to your eye. As waxy plaque builds up in your arteries, blood flow decreases, while your heart attack and stroke risk increases. Clots may cause blurry vision or sudden loss of vision.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis. Eye problems can also occur if you have rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms may include dry eyes, redness, pain, blurred vision, cataracts, and sensitivity to light.
Thanks to annual eye examinations, it's possible to detect subtle changes in your eyes that could indicate that you have one of these diseases or conditions. Visiting your ophthalmologist once a year is a simple way to protect your visual and general health. Contact our office if you are ready to schedule your yearly visit or have been experiencing any eye issues.
Chicago Medicine: Lyme Disease and the Eye
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: Vision Problems
Review of Ophthalmology: Thyroid Disease: It's Causes and Prognosis, 11/9/18
CNN: These Health Problems Can Be Predicted with a Look into Your Eyes, 3/1/18
American Academy of Ophthalmology: 20 Surprising Health Problems an Eye Exam Can Catch, 1/16/20
U Chicago Medicine: What Can Your Eyes Tell You About Heart Disease?, 4/26/18
All About Vision: Infographic: 10 Health Problems Your Eyes Could Be Showing Signs Of, 1/17