If you don’t have perfect vision, you’ve probably had your fair share of eye exams, they sit you down, ask you if things look better with option one or two, one or two, and also blow that puff of air in your eyes to test for diseases.
If you’re one of the lucky ones with no vision problems, though, getting your eyes checked on a yearly basis probably isn’t your top priority. I mean, you can see just fine. So why go while visiting an ophthalmologist is about more than just checking your vision, it’s also good for your overall health. All kinds of conditions can show up in your eyes sometimes before they’re obvious anywhere else. They include anything from SD eyes to cancer, but since we can’t cover them all. Here are four of the more common ones.
Your eyes are so useful for detecting health conditions because they’re packed with different kinds of tissues and cells or blood vessels, nerve cells, muscle cells and more. Which means the eyes are susceptible to diseases that affect any of those things. On top of that, it’s really easy to see inside the eye since the outer covering is transparent. It’s the only organ where doctors can see your blood vessels without any serious obstructions and with the right equipment, they can even see red blood cells moving through your capillaries. So the eye is the perfect looking glass into your body’s overall health, some of the things a doctor can learn from your eyeballs are pretty straightforward.
For example, one of the easiest things for them to spot is if you have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, high blood pressure can develop over many years, but unless you regularly get checked for it, it can be hard to detect. The physical symptoms are often elusive, but can sometimes manifest as really bad headaches, chest pain, trouble breathing or dizziness, and if left untreated, hypertension can cause a stroke or heart attacks and even lead to dementia, a general practitioner can usually catch high blood pressure during a regular checkup, but doctors can also notice it because hypertension leads to some significant changes in a blood vessel. Although researchers aren’t sure why it causes the blood vessels to resist and push against the blood flowing through them, which causes pressure to rise over time, that leads to the vessels becoming narrower and stiffer, and while this happens all over the body, it can easily be seen in the retina, which is near the center of your eye, the narrow the blood vessels get, the harder it is for the blood to flow into the retina. That makes the pressure go up in the eyeball and causes it to become swollen, which can lead to blurry vision or seeing white spots. More severe hypertension can also cause hemorrhages and leaking in the eye because the blood vessels get weak and burst. But that can also be easily noticed during routine eye exams.
Another commonly spotted problem in the eyes is high cholesterol, cholesterol is a waxy substance that builds up in blood vessels over time, and it makes it harder for blood to get where it needs to go, like the heart or the brain. If a piece of it breaks off, it can also get stuck somewhere and cause a heart attack or stroke, like with high blood pressure. A general practitioner can tell you about your cholesterol levels, but again, so can an ophthalmologist. If there’s too much cholesterol in the eyes blood vessels, it can cause something called retinal vein occlusion. This is where a clot cuts off the blood supply to part of the eye. And it can cause blurry vision or even vision loss if it’s severe enough. It’s worth noting that this occlusion can also be caused by high blood pressure or diabetes, but regardless, it’s a sign that something isn’t quite right in the body, and speaking of diabetes, that’s another condition that sometimes first spotted in the eye. Diabetes affects more than 400 and 20 million people worldwide. It’s actually a major cause of blindness, the disease has plenty of signs and symptoms like being really tired, thirsty or hungry. But one big one is blurred vision. This can be caused by retinal vein occlusion, but it can also happen because of diabetic retinopathy.
This is damage that happens to blood vessels when too much sugar builds up in the body. In particular, sugar damages the blood vessels that feed the retina. When these vessels are damaged, they can bleed or leak fluid, making your vision fuzzy. The leaking can also cause the center of the retina to swell, which further contributes to the blurriness. At this point, scientists aren’t exactly sure why sugar buildup damages blood vessels, but it definitely can, and if you don’t treat diabetic retinopathy, it can eventually lead to blindness. So while there are other ways to detect diabetes, sometimes these vision problems are someone’s first red flag. And finally, many inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease and lupus can also be detected in the eye. Inflammation is totally normal and it’s our bodies response to an injury or infection. When you get hurt or sick, your body dispatches white blood cells and they work to attack and get rid of the invader. With inflammatory diseases, though, there isn’t an injury, but the body responds as if there were one. These conditions are less common than something like hypertension or diabetes, but they still affect more than a million people and that number is growing. Inflammatory conditions can be caused by a number of things from infections to autoimmune disorders, but ultimately they lead to prolonged inflammation in the body and that can cause something called uveitis, which is typically when the middle part of the eye called the uvula swells.
It happens when inflammatory cells flood the eye and it can cause blurred vision, light sensitivity or dark floating spots, among other things. And if you don’t treat it, it can lead to permanent blindness! And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conditions that affect your eyes. So while the saying might be the eyes are the windows to our souls, it turns out they’re more like the windows to our health.