Most Americans only visit the eye doctor when they notice changes in their vision. Not a bad plan, right?

Although it’s always important to see a doctor if you notice a difference in your health, you might want to visit your eye doctor even if you don’t think anything is wrong. This is because comprehensive eye examinations can help doctors catch certain health problems early, many of which have nothing to do with the eye.

Diabetes

Believe it or not, it’s possible to detect diabetes in the eye before it even registers in a blood sugar test. During the dilated portion of the eye exam, your doctor can detect changes or damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This condition, known as diabetic retinopathy, is a common sign of diabetes.

Cancer

During an eye exam, your doctor may be able to detect ocular melanoma, or skin cancer within the eye. Like most other forms of skin cancer, ocular melanoma often begins as a mole or a freckle. If your doctor notices a freckle in your eye, they may monitor you to make sure it doesn’t become more serious.

Autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis can all be detected in a comprehensive eye examination. For instance, many people with rheumatoid arthritis experience dry eye because their immune system attacks their tear ducts. Lupus can result in inflammation within the eye, as well as changes to the blood vessels in the retina. MS can result in numerous eye problems including an inflamed optic nerve, uncontrolled eye movements, and double vision.

High cholesterol

High cholesterol has a number of ocular signs and symptoms. One sign is a bluish ring around the outside of the cornea, also known as an arcus senilis. Soft, yellowish elevations of the skin above the eyes are another common sign of high cholesterol, as well as plaques within the arteries of the eye.

All of these conditions – and more – can be discovered by regularly having your eyes checked by your doctor.

How often should I receive eye exams?

Most people should receive a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years; however, you may need more frequent exams depending on your age, your risk factors, and whether you currently wear glasses or contact lenses.

Risk factors include:

  • A family history of eye diseases
  • Previous eye injuries or eye surgery
  • A medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Taking medication with eye-related side effects

Your doctor will know best how frequently you should receive comprehensive eye examinations. Remember, keeping up with your eye appointments won’t only save your vision – it may also save your life.

Interested in setting up a comprehensive eye examination? Contact Bonner Eye Clinic today so that we can best discuss your eyecare needs.