6 Serious Health Problems An Eye Exam Can Catch

Annual eye exams help you catch small changes in your sight before they affect your ability to drive or read your computer screen at work. However, a comprehensive exam administered by an ophthalmologist or optometrist can reveal a lot more about your overall health. Don't skip the eye exam and you could get an early diagnosis for one of these six serious health problems.

Blood Pressure Problems

While blood pressure is easily measured with an arm cuff, too many people forget to take a reading at least once or twice a year. Many optometrists discover damage caused by high blood pressure to the veins of the eye when a patient goes months or years without getting their blood pressure under control. Common signs of damage a doctor can spot inside the eye include

  • Bleeding and hemorrhaging inside the eye
  • Blurriness and a sudden drop in vision in one or both eyes
  • Swelling and bends in the veins due to the increased pressure.

Chronic Inflammation Signs

There are dozens of different chronic inflammation disorders that create visible damage inside the eye. A surprising number of cases of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and other related diseases are first diagnosed due to signs first noticed during a routine eye exam. If you've been seeing an eye doctor regularly for reoccurring inflammation that seems like pink eye or itchy dry eye, you may need additional testing to make sure you're not facing a much bigger challenge.

Diabetes Damages

Eye exams also show the effects of uncontrolled blood sugar levels too. Unlike the large and triangular-shaped hemorrhages associated with high blood pressure, patients with diabetes experience small pinhole leaks. There still may be a lot of blood gathering in the eye, but it emerges from a smaller hole due to the type of damage done by glucose. Yellow fluid can also build up in the eye.

Sickle Cell Anemia Symptoms

Sickle cell anemia is a rare disease that primarily affects African Americans, but too many at-risk patients don't realize they need routine screening for it. If you wait until it's causing vision blurriness and difficulties focusing, you're likely experiencing a lot of other damage and may not respond as well to treatment. The misshapen blood cells cause blockages in the eye's blood vessels, which are easy to spot when the optometrist examines the retina. In severe and untreated cases, the entire retina can detach and leave you permanently blind.

Multiple Sclerosis Indicators

Stress can cause the muscles around your eye to twitch or jump -- or the sensations could be an early sign of multiple sclerosis. Only an optometrist can check out the optic nerve and the eye's natural focusing response to help you rule out this serious degenerative disorder. If it is MS, there will also be damage to the retina in a pattern that's easily recognizable to a professional. Getting an early diagnosis makes all the difference in delaying the worst symptoms of this incurable disease. Make an immediate appointment if your tics are accompanied with discomfort in the eye and double vision.

Brain Tumors

Finally, a 30-minute eye exam could save your life if it catches the earliest signs of a brain tumor. It's hard to catch these tumors any other way, so it's no wonder that many cases are discovered during visits to the optometrist. The slightest increase in pressure inside the brain case leads to a swollen optic disc, which is noticeable long before any other symptoms begin to bother you.

Don't put off those quick and inexpensive comprehensive eye exams when there's so much value in each one. No matter whether you pay out of pocket or get your insurance to pick up the bill, the sheer number of life-threatening health problems you can detect with this single test makes it worth scheduling. Talk to a local exam office like the Montgomery Eye Center for more information and to set up your next appointment.