The eyes are one of the most unique parts of the body, not only because of the pure beauty and intricacies they best known for, but because they are also a window into your internal health. A window that is typically unavailable without costly and highly invasive surgery. The eyes give your general health practitioner a look into what may be going on in both your eyes, such as glaucoma and cataracts, as well as general health issues like high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, HIV, and aneurysms, among a long list of others.
With such an extensive list of health conditions that can be spotted simply by giving the eyes a good look, it is no wonder why eye health professionals and general health professionals highly recommend that everybody, regardless of age, receive regular eye exams.
One study conducted by the CDC reported that of 11,503 individuals aged 40 years and over, 35 percent noted that they didn’t receive regular eye care because they didn’t feel that it was necessary. Additionally, 39.8 percent reported a lack of insurance being the reason for their not seeking regular eye care, and 4.5 percent blames their lack of regular eye care on not being able to get an appointment.
Whatever the cause, the fact that so many people don’t get regular eye care shows a serious flaw in the visual care field or just general uneducation on the importance of vision health. The truth is, with the benefits of a regular eye exam to both eye health and general health, getting an exam done regularly has never been more important.
When Should You Have an Eye Exam?
For some, eye exams are only something they undergo when they feel that they are experiencing difficulties with their vision. However, like dental exams, having a regular eye exam is extremely important. This doesn’t mean you have to have an all-out, dilation eye exam regularly, but you should have an eye exam once every year or two.
Eye health professionals recommend that if you haven’t had a comprehensive eye exam by the time you’re 40, it’s time to get one. This should be done sooner rather than later for anyone with a family history of eye issues, or general health issues that may be spotted in the eyes.
What an Eye Exam Can Spot
There are a number of conditions that range in seriousness that show symptoms in or directly affect the eyes. Some of these conditions require that a comprehensive exam be given. Others are conditions that can be spotted by you in the mirror, or anyone else that gives you a look in the eyes. Here is a brief breakdown of some of these conditions, as well as what they may signal for your inner health:
Bulging Eyes: This is a condition that you can usually tell. Some people have eyes that seem to bulge a bit, and this may be normal for them, and their family. However, if you notice that your eyes have started to bulge a bit more, or that they are seeming more prominent than they previously were, it’s time to see a doctor. Bulging eyes can signal a thyroid condition due to thyroid hormone levels being abnormal, triggering swelling in the eyes.
Droopy Eyelid: While many people experience droopy lids due to excessive tiredness, or even as a result of normal aging, on the rare occasion having droopy eyelids can signal a tumor in the brain. Also in rare cases, droopy eyelids may signal a neuromuscular disorder called Myasthenia Gravis.
Yellow Eyes: Yellowing of the eyes can often be noticed by you or your family. However, a proper eye exam can give you and your health team some insight into the significance of that yellowing. Some yellowing due to age or environmental factors is more common than abnormal, however, yellowing can also signal a liver problem like hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Pupil Abnormalities: The pupils of healthy individuals generally appear to be symmetrical. There are some variations to this rule, but in general pupils are symmetrical. If one pupil appears larger than the other, a medical abnormality may be an underlying factor.
The pupils dilate or shrink with light exposure, so when one eye doesn’t give the same reaction to light as another, your eye health professional may send you in for further testing. Underlying medical problems that may cause pupil abnormalities include stroke, optic nerve tumor, brain tumor, brain aneurysm, multiple sclerosis, or syphilis.
Corneal Arcus: A corneal arcus is a thing ring around the cornea that may appear as white or gray. This ring is a deposit of fat and cholesterol, and signals high cholesterol in the patient. This condition is frequently seen in older patients, and although it can be seen in younger patients, it is rare.
Retinal Vein Occlusion: Retinal vein occlusions need a close up view of the eye by an eye health provider or general practitioner, but can signal a serious issue with blood pressure and cholesterol. Diabetes patients may also experience issues with retinal vein occlusions, so it is important to carefully monitor the eyes of diabetes patients, as well as those with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Regular eye check-ups can monitor the condition or signal warnings to patients before serious issues arrive.
Large or Cloudy Eye: This is something to look for in children, and is something your regular pediatrician or family practitioner should watch out for each year during your child’s wellness visit. An eye that is larger than the other may signal congenital glaucoma.
If you notice one or both eyes are hazy or fuzzy looking, a congenital cataract or intraocular tumor may be to blame. Parasitic infections can also cause cloudy eyes, so be sure to have your child tested and evaluated for parasites if you notice cloudy eyes, in addition to having a thorough eye exam.
If you are noticing any of these abnormalities or symptoms in your eyes or vision, don’t panic. More than likely, it is has occurred naturally or due to some minor eye problem. The best thing to do is schedule an appointment with an eye specialist who will then direct you on your next move.