Your optometrist can learn a lot about the state of your general health, not just the health of your eyes, through a routine eye examination. Identifying certain health issues early on can save your sight and your life. A routine eye exam often leads to early diagnosis and treatment of an underlying health problem you don't even know you have.
High Blood Pressure
Blurred vision may be related to your blood pressure and not a problem with your eyes. Your eye doctor can tell if you suffer from high blood pressure, or hypertension, by looking at the retina and blood vessels in your eyes. Strain on these vessels can cause them to narrow or bleed. In addition, high blood pressure can cause the optic nerve to swell, affecting vision.
High blood pressure that goes untreated can lead to permanent vision loss. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also lead to atherosclerosis (known as hardening of the arteries) or stroke -- the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Spots of blood in the retina of the eye can be a sign of high blood pressure, stroke, or diabetes. Retinal bleeding may occur when sugar that builds up in your bloodstream begins to damage retinal tissue. Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can cause impaired vision or even lead to blindness. Many people with diabetes don't know they have it, yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that diabetes, which is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, is the seventh leading cause of death among Americans.
The sudden, brief loss of vision in one or both eyes, blurred vision, and severe headache are common symptoms that can signal a blockage in a carotid artery -- one of two arteries that run down each side of the neck. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the front area of the brain. You are at an increased risk for a stroke when cholesterol builds up in the arteries, narrowing the passage through which blood flows.
Dilating the eyes to examine them can reveal growths in the back of the eye. Individuals usually don't experience symptoms of ocular melanomas and other eye cancers until the diseases are in an advanced stage. However, routine eye exams can detect tumors early.
This is important since delayed diagnosis of eye cancer can cost you an eye or your life. Always report chronically red eyes, blurry vision, or dark spots that appear in your field of vision to your eye care specialist.
Additional Symptoms to Report
Certain other eye or vision symptoms that appear suddenly may signal a serious health problem that requires immediate medical attention.
Contact an eye doctor, like those at Naples Optical Center Inc, to report sudden:
Changes in the sizes of your pupils -- unequal pupils with flashes of light may be signs of stroke or retinal detachment
Changes in your eyelids, especially if one or both droop -- could be a symptom of stroke, brain tumor, or a brain aneurysm
Severe eye pain accompanied by nausea and vomiting -- could signal a glaucoma attack that can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve
When I figured out that I had vision problems, I was really nervous about wearing glasses, getting contacts, or undergoing eye surgery. I didn't know what to choose, how comfortable I would be, or what to do about the upcoming changes in my life. In order to make sense of my new lifestyle, I made an appointment with a trained optician in my area to have a little chat. I mentioned my fears, and he talked with me about all of the different options available. It was incredible to see how much of a difference the right advice made. I was fitted with custom glasses, and my journey is detailed on my website. If you are nervous, read on to learn why you shouldn't be.