Living 50 Plus

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Yearly eye exams can reveal more than just vision trouble

More evidence points to the importance of routine eye exams, not only to pinpoint potential conditions of the eye, but also to serve as windows to diseases that affect the entire body. Now more than ever it is essential to make and keep annual eye exams, as they can help to reveal the first signs of serious ailments.

Doctors from around the world say dozens of diseases — from certain cancers to arthritis to high blood pressure — can show symptoms in the eye. Under the watchful and knowing gaze of an eyecare professional, individuals can get early diagnosis and begin treatment promptly.

According to Dr. Roy Chuck, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, there are many systemic diseases that can be seen in the eye. In addition to the conditions mentioned, jaundice can indicate liver disease while retinal detachment and bleeding in new blood vessels may indicate hypertension. By looking at the color of the cornea, some doctors can tell if a patient has elevated levels of cholesterol. Many people have had their eye doctors be the first healthcare professional to detect the presence of their diabetes.

If an ophthalmologist suspects an underlying medical condition, he or she will likely refer men and women to their primary care doctors for a more thorough examination.

Going to the eye doctor can do more than ensure your vision is sharp. It's a life-saving decision for many people who have major health conditions diagnosed through the eyes.