Pop quiz: Do you need a comprehensive eye exam even when you think you have a healthy vision? Answer: Yes.
While many people understand why a comprehensive eye exam is a wise thing to undertake, few people go for regular exams because they either think eye exams are meant for older people or they don’t believe it necessary when they have clear vision.
You never know the importance of eyesight until you lose it. And you never know the importance of assessing your eye health until you realize you have a condition that may be too late to fully correct.
Having a doctor assess the health of your eyes is important because any issues that arise can raise a red flag about other conditions in the body. According to the American Optometric Association, a regular eye exam can detect early symptoms of more than 270 chronic diseases and systemic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure and other health issues.
The AOA also asserts that an annual comprehensive eye exam is as important as a yearly checkup with your primary physician.
Eye Issues That May Indicate Larger Health Problems
There are several situations that occur where you should immediately check with a medical professional. Those include:
1. Sudden Loss of Vision
When things suddenly start appearing blurry, seek immediate medical help. This could indicate a distorted blood flow to your brain or eye blood vessels.
An eye screening will not suffice, as it will only treat the possible causes of blurry vision.
2. White Cornea Spots
The cornea is the transparent layer of tissue that covers your eye. If you notice white spots on your cornea, it might mean it has an infection. This mostly happens with people who wear contact lenses instead of glasses.
3. Bulging Eyes & Double Vision
Bulging eyes and double vision are two early signs of Graves’ ophthalmopathy. The disease is associated with excessive production of thyroid hormones, which could cause bulging of the eyes or double vision.
4. White Ring Around the Iris
In medical terms, a white ring around the iris is called a corneal arcus. The white or sometimes gray ring is composed of lipid deposits, indicating your body has way too much cholesterol. If left untreated, it could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
5. Itchy or Wet Eyes
Check with your eye care professional to treat any allergies or irritants that cause itchy or wet eyes.
6. Pink/Yellow Bumps on the Eyeball
The eyeball is ordinarily a smooth, white, oval shape. When you start noticing a pink or yellow bump growing on it, seek immediate help from your eye doctor before the bump grows, blocking your sight. Bumps primarily develop if your eyes get too much exposure to the sun.
7. Eye Floaters
Everyone sees a few eye floaters. They refer to spots in your vision that range from gray or dark spots or strings that appear in your eyesight.
If you start to see more floaters, don’t ignore them as they can indicate issues such as a retinal detachment or tear.
8. Yellow Eyeball
Jaundice can cause yellowing of the eyeballs. The condition involves an excessive production of a yellow compound (bilirubin) during the breakdown of red blood cells. This could be a warning sign of cancer or gallstones on your bile ducts.
Health Issues That Can Be Spotted During an Eye Exam
A comprehensive eye exam could be what you need to discover and slam the brakes on advancing health issues that are not showing any symptoms. The eye exam will help detect the following health conditions:
A comprehensive dilated eye exam can help detect the early signs of diabetes before you start to notice symptoms.
High blood sugar levels can cause blood capillaries (the tiniest blood vessels) to burst around the layer of light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (retina), causing a leakage.
A dilated eye exam will show this leakage into the retina and help manage diabetes before it escalates.
As of 2017, a two-thirds of U.S. optometrists recorded more than 401,000 patients who didn’t know they had diabetes. They obtained the diabetic retinopathy diagnosis after an eye exam.
2. Autoimmune Diseases
A simple eye exam can also detect autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is an inflammatory disease that attacks the body’s cells. It may attack the eye cells causing painful swelling, turning your eyes red and sore.
3. Brain Cancer/Tumor
Brain cancer or a tumor tend to apply intense pressure within your brain. You can detect the condition early enough by conducting an eye exam.
The test will detect pressure on the optic nerve, a nerve at the back of your eye that relays light signals to the brain, or unravel an abnormally large optic nerve.
4. High Cholesterol Levels
While your body needs cholesterol, a waxy substance within your blood that helps build cells, to function normally, very high levels can expose a person to significant health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, and blood clots. Your optometrist will detect cholesterol deposits in your retina’s blood vessels.
5. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an increase in the pressure within your blood vessels. This pressure often results in the bursting of blood vessels. If the cells at the back of the eye burst, the eye exam will detect a leak into the retina.
Can Your Eyes Indicate a Health Problem?
Yes, they can. Your eyes offer a glimpse into your health. Any changes in your eye’s appearance or vision could signal both vision health issues (like retinal disorders, among others) and non-eye-related health issues, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or brain tumor.
What Illnesses Can You (or Doctors) Detect From Your Eyes?
We tend to ignore some of the “common” changes that our eyes experience, like blurry vision. However, taking a closer look at the slightest changes in your eyes could reveal instances of the following illnesses:
- Allergic reactions
- High cholesterol
- Migraine headaches
- High blood pressure
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Sexually transmitted diseases, like HIV, herpes, and gonorrhea
What Can Eye Tests Tell You About Your Health?
You would be surprised how much an eye test can tell you about your health. For instance, while high blood pressure does not project any outward symptoms to your eyes, an eye test can help detect it in its early stages. Regular eye tests will reveal more about your health than general checkups with your general health physician. Eye tests are one of the best tools for the early detection of conditions that do not display symptoms easily.
Keep an Eye on Your Eyes. (May 2018). National Institutes of Health.
Statistics of Conditions Detected by Eye Exam. (December 2014). American Optometric Association.
Graves’ Ophthalmopathy Definition. (September 2017). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Corneal Arcus Definition. (August 2021). National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Statistics of Diabetes Retinopathy Patients. (November 2018). American Optometric Association.
Causes of a Large Optic Nerve. (September 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Health Problems Eye Professionals Can Detect. (January 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Last Updated February 17, 2022
Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.