Six Medical Conditions that Can Be Found during an Eye Exam

By Walter Choate on February 26, 2019

Female ophthalmologist performing eye exam on male patientMany Americans visit their primary care physician at least once a year for a checkup. While patients should maintain this practice, many are surprised to learn that some medical conditions can be found during a visit to the eye doctor.

The fact of the matter is, routine eye exams can tell us quite a bit about the state of our health and wellbeing. Here, our team at Choate Eye Associates in Nashville, TN explores six medical conditions that can be found during an eye exam.

How Does it Work?

How can an eye assessment reveal information about your body as a whole? The retina, located at the back of the eye, is the only area of the human body that offers a detailed view of nerves and blood vessels without the need for surgery or incisions. Therefore, an eye exam can help detect troubling health conditions before they worsen.

1. Diabetes

For those with type 2 diabetes, one of the first warning signs could be slight bleeding in the retina. In fact, this is one of the most common symptoms of diabetic retinopathy.

If left untreated, this disease can ultimately lead to blindness. However, managing the condition early can significantly reduce the risk of vision loss.

2. Cancer

Retinal bleeding, changes in vision, and structural changes to the eye can indicate cancer. For example, some types of retinal bleeding can denote leukemia, while changes in vision could signal a brain tumor.

Moreover, your ophthalmologist can detect a wide range of cancers, from breast to lung, if they have spread to the eye.

3. Hypertension

Research has indicated a link between the narrowing of retinal blood vessels and heart disease. Surprisingly, this evidence is most noticeable in those without conventional heart disease risk factors.

Any time damage occurs to the arteries or blood vessels, it can indicate high blood pressure. For this reason, your ophthalmologist may detect issues before anyone else.

4. Thyroid Disease

One of the most common symptoms of thyroid disease is bulging eyeballs. Also referred to as Graves’ disease, this condition can tell your ophthalmologist if you have hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid.

5. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Other Autoimmune Disorders

Individuals with autoimmune disorders tend to have significant inflammation in many areas of the body, including the eyes. If a patient suffers from iritis (inflammation of the iris) at least twice in a one-year period, it could indicate rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, about 25 percent of all rheumatoid arthritis patients have dry eyes or another type of eye condition.

6. Multiple Sclerosis

Inflammation of the optic nerve, or optic neuritis, can occur for many reasons. However, it is present in approximately 75 percent of individuals with multiple sclerosis. Dr. Choate can assess the optic nerve by performing a dilated fundus examination.

Contact Us for More Information

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all individuals undergo a routine ophthalmological evaluation by age 40. Individuals over the age of 65 should receive an eye assessment every one to two years. To schedule your routine eye exam at Choate Eye Associates, contact us at (615) 851-7575.

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