According to the CDC, “People with vision problems are more likely than those with good vision to have diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and strokes, as well as have increased risk for falls, injury and depression. Among people ages 65 and older, 54.2 percent of those who are blind and 41.7 percent of those with impaired vision say their overall health is fair or poor. Just 21.5 percent of older Americans without vision problems reported fair to poor health.” That’s a real eye-opener, pun intended.
May is Healthy Vision Month, and it’s important to know that not just eye and vision problems, but many systemic health problems, are first detected during a comprehensive eye exam. The following are some examples.
An eye doctor can detect swelling in the back of the eye that causes changes to the optic nerve. That sign, as well as loss of peripheral vision, double vision and change in pupil size can indicate a brain tumor. Leukemia and lymphoma can affect the optic nerve and vitreous. Leaking blood vessels in the retina indicates diabetes. Unusual bends, narrowing, kinks or bleeding from blood vessels in the back of the eye are a sign of high blood pressure. Lupus can be a cause of dry eye and swelling in the sclera, the choroid (the middle, vascular tunic of the eye) or the retina. Inflammation of the optic nerve is an early indicator of multiple sclerosis, together with blurred vision, painful eye movement or even double vision. Sexually transmitted diseases affect the tunics of the eye and can be detected during an eye exam. Blood vessels of the retina sometimes contain blockages or clots that can cause sudden blind spots, indicating an increased risk for stroke.
Those are just some of the systemic diseases and conditions that can be identified during an eye exam. Many people don’t know there is so much more to a comprehensive eye exam than, “Which is better, 1 or 2?” To help get the word out, the CDC’s Vision Health Initiative is a great resource for data on vision impairment, eye diseases, eye injury, publications and infographics you can use in your office or on social media. The eyes may be not only the windows to the soul, but the windows to the whole.
Learn about steps to safeguard eyesight in older patients with our CE, “The Mature Contact Lens Patient” at 2020mag.com/ce.
• Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor