The pronouncements are familiar. Every adult over age 40 should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least every three years. Every senior adult over age 65 should plan on at least every two years. But if a person has a particular condition which can affect eye health, exams should be undergone more often as directed by the eye care specialist. Such conditions include diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, severe myopia, eye tumors, dry eye syndrome, and any type of retinopathy due to age, injury, or genetics.
These directives are well-known by anyone who makes healthy vision a priority. Not as familiar, however, are other health risks that can be detected during an eye exam. The eyes are more than “windows to the soul”. They are also windows to the body.
By looking into a patient’s eyes, a knowledgable eye care specialist can see early signs of systemic diseases that may not have been identified by other means. The specialist can then be expected to refer the case to the primary care provider for diagnosis and possible treatment—likely saving the patient from more severe problems down the road.
Diseases that can be detected by eye exams are:
- thyroid disorders
- autoimmune disorders
- neurological disorders
- multiple sclerosis
- eye cancer
- sickle cell disease
- Alzheimer’s disease (under study)
Eye exams are important not only for diagnosing and treating symptoms of optical malfunctions, but for catching non-optical systemic diseases before symptoms arise. Knowing this about the whole-body benefits of comprehensive eye evaluations should strengthen every patient’s motivation to maintain regular clinical visits.