When was the last time you went to the eye doctor for an eye exam? If you’re like most people, it’s probably been a while.
Part of the reason we don’t go very often is that we don’t know when we should be going. If your vision is perfect and you don’t need glasses or contacts, what’s the point? Even people who do wear glasses don’t know how often to go. There just isn’t a strict rule that says you should go every given time-period. With your dentist and your doctor, you know you must go roughly every year. With the ophthalmologist, who knows?
It’s recommended that children and people over the age of 60 should get an eye exam every year. Diabetics should also have annual visits. If you’re over 40, 18 months should do it. For young adults, you should have your eyes checked every two years.
You should go get your eyes checked now, and then ask your doctor when you should come back. Eye exams can catch the first signs of many different diseases that have nothing to do with your vision. Your eye doctor will notice symptoms in your eyes that you didn’t even notice when you looked in the mirror this morning.
Based on your age, vision issues, and any health concerns they notice in your exam, your eye doctor will tell you how frequently to plan your visits to their office.
Here are some of the health issues eye doctors can catch before anyone else:
1. Graves’ Disease
This disorder is a common culprit for causing hyperthyroidism. The thyroid becomes enlarged, hormones become unbalanced, and thick red skin sometimes develops on the tops of the feet. However, one of the first symptoms can be spotted by your ophthalmologist almost instantly: bulging eyes. The muscles behind the eyes begin to thicken which forces the eyes to protrude.
In severe cases, the patient may have trouble closing eyelids because the eyes are protruded so far out. Your eyes become very dry and irritated; it’s an uncomfortable scenario for the sufferer. Once your eye doctor has observed your symptoms in the eyes, they may recommend you try over-the-counter artificial tears to lubricate the eyes. You may also need corticosteroids and potentially surgery.
2. High Cholesterol
You’ve likely heard every person over the age of 40 worry about their cholesterol levels and start limiting their intake of egg yolks and red meat. Their concern is for good reason; high cholesterol can lead to heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Most of the time, for older adults, there are no physical symptoms of high cholesterol except the results-paper from a blood test. However, people under 40 with high cholesterol sometimes do experience symptoms and could potentially lead to heart disease in the future.
Eye doctors can notice symptoms in your eyes before you even take the blood test. People under the age of 40 who have high cholesterol sometimes develop a white, gray, or blue ring around their cornea. You likely won’t notice it yourself, but during an eye exam, your doctor certainly will. If they notice this symptom and it leads you to adjust your cholesterol levels early on, you can avoid the serious health conditions mentioned above.
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Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells because it can’t distinguish the difference between healthy cells and harmful intruders. Its symptoms can manifest in every part of the body since it affects every bodily system. However, 20 percent of lupus patients have symptoms in their eyes. Medically, lupus causes the tear glands to produce an insufficient amount of tears which causes the eyes to lack lubrication. This is also known as Sjogren’s Syndrome. People with this syndrome from lupus will experience scleritis: red, dry, and itchy eyes.
If your eye doctor believes the redness, dryness, and itchiness in your eyes could be a sign of lupus or another autoimmune disease, they will likely recommend you see a specialist. You may think you have dry, red eyes due to allergens in the air, but a quick eye exam could prove otherwise.
4. Myasthenia Gravis
This neuromuscular disorder causes your skeletal muscles to become so weak that eventually you are unable to use them. There is no cure, but there are effective treatments for the symptoms. Patients often won’t know they’re suffering from this autoimmune disorder; they may feel extra tired and want to rest more often than normal. However, those symptoms can progress quickly to more serious ones.
One of the most common symptoms patients become concerned enough to see a doctor about is drooping eyelids and double vision. Essentially, the muscles around the eyes that control eyelid movement become too weak to open and close them. Eventually, this weakness affects your ability to chew, swallow, walk, move your arms, or even lift your head.
After the eye exam, the doctor will likely recommend you see a specialist to get a full diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.
One of the many symptoms of diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. You may notice small “floaters” or specks in your vision. Eventually, they’ll become so populous and consistent you’ll have trouble focusing your vision around them. At this point, most people go to see their eye doctor to question these strange specks. Ophthalmologists are trained to notice signs of diabetes since the disease is tightly connected to causing eye issues.
Diabetic retinopathy causes your eyes’ blood vessels to have blockages and impede blood flow, causing the vessel to break and leak blood and other fluids. If caught in time, you can have laser surgery done to prevent vision loss. However, if you don’t catch it in time, it can lead to vision impairment, color blindness, and even complete vision loss.
Ready to Book Your Eye Exam?
Although your eye doctor would love nothing more than to hand you a prescription and get you some contacts, a large part of their career is noticing symptoms in the eyes that point to non-eye-related health issues.
It’s in your best interest to get your eyes checked, and then to follow your ophthalmologist’s instruction on how often to get exams in the future. And, the moment you notice a strange symptom affecting your eyes or your vision, see a doctor.
To learn more about how to naturally protect your eyes and vision from diseases and other ailments, check out our blog.