The eye is the only place in the body where blood vessels and nerves can be directly and noninvasively observed. This means each time you go to the eye doctor, they are evaluating important factors about your overall health. An overwhelming number of systemic diseases can have significant effects on the eyes, and these effects can be identified in comprehensive eye exams. Diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes can wreak havoc on ocular blood vessels if not properly controlled.
It is not uncommon for autoimmune conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis to cause ocular problems. Even some neurological conditions, like multiple sclerosis, can have distinct eye-related symptoms and signs. Your eye doctor is well trained in how these systemic conditions can affect your eyes, and keep your overall health in mind each time they evaluate the health of your eyes.
Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and the Eye
Diabetes and high blood pressure are two of the most common systemic diseases in America. They also have the potential to cause significant changes in ocular health, which can be identified in comprehensive eye examinations. Both high blood pressure and diabetes adversely affect small blood vessels throughout the entire body, and the small vessels within the eye can be some of the first to be affected by these diseases. If diabetes and high blood pressure are not being properly controlled they can result in retinopathy, in which the small blood vessels in the retina are weakened. This can result in these vessels leaking out blood or proteins, or result in areas of the retina not receiving adequate oxygen. In severe cases of retinopathy, it can carry significant threats to vision. Leakage from vessels can result in retinal swelling, scarring, or even retinal detachments. Those with diabetes and high blood pressure should undergo yearly comprehensive eye exams, complete with a thorough ocular health evaluation to ensure that their systemic disease is not causing any damage to the health of their eyes.
A Further Look into Overall Health and Systemic Disease
While diabetes and high blood pressure are common causes of ocular health changes, they are far from being the only culprits. Many other diseases can have ocular manifestations that may give insight to how well the disease is being treated. For example, eye doctors can identify elevated levels of cholesterol within seconds by looking at the front of the eye. Myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disorder causing muscle weakness, can cause droopy eyelids and double vision, which oftentimes brings them to their eye doctor before they are even officially diagnosed. Thyroid problems, particularly hyperthyroidism, can cause a whole range of problems, ranging from bulging eyes, to dry ocular surface, to optic nerve damage. Even the possible risk of compressive tumors in the brain can be identified during eye exams.
The next time you visit your optometrist at Innovative Vision Care, remember they can do more than simply find your glasses prescription. If you are being treated for any systemic conditions, bring them up to your eye doctor. They can evaluate the possible effects on your eyes, and help communicate with your primary care physician so that you are getting the best possible care.