Did you know that your eyes can show signs of various health conditions, which can be extremely beneficial in successfully treating systemic diseases? While it may sound odd, you need to listen to your eyes. Adults over the age of sixty are more prone to diseases that affect their vision, making it all the more crucial to have their eyes examined yearly. Although numerous health conditions can affect your eyes, we listed only a few more common conditions below.
- Over 10% of US adults have type 2 diabetes, managing the severe complications that accompany the condition. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74. It is also a significant cause of blindness for those 75 and older. Also, being diabetic puts people at a higher risk of severe complications, meaning it’s more important to get their eyes checked at least once a year to make sure any potential issues are being appropriately treated in the correct timeframe.
- People with autoimmune disorders, including forms of arthritis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis (MS), can develop swelling in the eye, eventually destroying eye tissue. Inflammation like this can be very serious and affect vision if left untreated. While some autoimmune disorders can be hereditary, it is difficult to have a diagnosis before symptoms arise. That’s why annual eye exams are imperative. There might be a change in swelling in your eye detected before other symptoms become present, alerting your provider.
- Having infectious diseases like shingles may have common complications like the eye, resulting in prolonged pain, facial scarring, and vision loss in rare instances. The eye complications can be managed during the course of the flare-up, preventing long-term impacts.
- Your eyes, like your body, need a multitude of nutrients and vitamins to prevent vision loss. If you have nutritional deficiencies, your eyes will suffer the consequences. One significant vitamin that benefits your eyes is vitamin A, found in sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, carrots, and fish.
- Liver disease doesn’t always cause noticeable signs and symptoms. However, yellowing of the eyes and skin can indicate this disease. If you have concerns about this possibility, talk to your provider.
- Specific changes to the appearance of your eyes or your vision can be a sign that you have high cholesterol. A white ring (arcus senilis) may form prematurely around the colored part of your eye (iris) when cholesterol is high in the blood. Other more serious conditions, like an eye stroke, can lead to vision loss. Detecting risk factors for high cholesterol in the eye at an eye exam would help let your regular doctor know, and your cholesterol levels can be evaluated with a simple blood test.
- High blood pressure is a risk factor for more than your heart. Your eyes can be impacted as well. High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels causing damage to the retina.
- Thyroid issues can impact the eyes as part of the overall disease presentation resulting in Thyroid Eye Disease. These findings may be subtle, like dryness of the eyes, or more serious, like pushing forward of the eye itself, called proptosis. Along with managing thyroid levels in the blood, these eye conditions can be effectively managed with proper detection and treatments.
Having a regular eye exam can help your doctor discover irregularities before they seriously affect your vision. Specifically, the American Diabetes Association has found that 40% of people living with diabetes are likely to develop glaucoma in their life. Glaucoma is described as intense pressure against the eyes, causing blindness if not treated properly. This pressure can go unchecked without regular eye exams and seriously affect your vision.
There are many different types of glaucoma, but all create intense pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma slowly damages the optic nerve over a lifetime, and the exact cause is unknown but most often occurs in people over 40 and people with a family history of glaucoma. Before treating glaucoma, your provider will need to determine what kind of glaucoma is developing. Because glaucoma is a progressive disease, worsening over time, Ophthalmologists look for a change in the appearance of the optic nerve, loss of nerve tissue, and a corresponding loss of vision before confirming the glaucoma diagnosis.
Treating glaucoma lowers the pressure on the optic nerve, and many factors determine how low a person’s eye pressure should be to address glaucoma-related symptoms. Some people need their eye pressure to be shallow, while others can tolerate very high eye pressure with no problems. Every person is unique and has a different healthy eye pressure. A glaucoma provider will consider a few other criteria to make the correct diagnosis:
- Family history, personal medical history, and current medications
- Details of the eye, including cornea thickness, the shape of the eye, and optic nerve
- Eye pressure
- The current health of the optic nerve
- The life expectancy of the person
If you are concerned about your eye health and don’t know where to start, the best thing you can do is to schedule an annual eye exam. Even if you’re not a person who wears glasses or contacts, you can benefit from an annual exam. This helps you and your provider have a baseline for your eyes. Your provider has a new exam to compare against if a condition does arise in the future. As glaucoma care continues, a provider will develop more information for the patient and create a trajectory of where the condition is heading. If glaucoma worsens and negatively affects vision, your provider can change the target eye pressure and adjust the treatment.
If you have any questions about your eye health, are concerned about how a chronic condition may affect your vision, or think you may have glaucoma, please do not hesitate to contact the Eye Center at Southwest Health at (608) 342-2020. Platteville has two convenient Eye Center locations, both at our hospital and McGregor Plaza, as well as two locations in Darlington and Lancaster, ready to serve you.
Your health, including eye health, is essential, and putting off care will only make your symptoms more complicated. If you haven’t had an eye exam since the pandemic started two years ago, and now you think too much time has passed to catch up, it’s not too late! Your provider can help you each step of the way and get back on track towards better health. Your local, friendly providers at Southwest Health just want to see you again.