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How is your eye health connected to your general health?

They say a person’s eyes are the windows to their souls – whether you believe this or not it turns out that your eyes can be a window to your general health. Eye exams can detect issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and many more. This is why improving vision is not the only reason to have your eyes examined!

More than 1 million eye exams are performed by optometrists in New Zealand each year. Optometrists are skilled at recognising and addressing eye complaints, but they are also trained to help sleuth out potentially serious conditions. The procedures that determine strength of vision and potential eye defects also can provide early warnings for a range of conditions in patients who may not be displaying obvious symptoms.

Why is this?

They eyes are one of the few parts of the body where you have clear visibility of the micro vascular network which plays a big part in helping detect many systemic general health conditions.

10 Health Conditions an Optometrist can detect from an eye exam:

  1. Diabetes. An eye test can tell whether you are at risk of diabetes based on the retinal vascular changes and blood vessel patterns in your eyes.
  2. High blood pressure. Hypertension is an indicator of other conditions, such as heart disease. An optometrist will pick up on whether you need to have your blood pressure checked by looking at the veins and arteries located in the back of your eye.
  3. Skin cancer. A speck or new dark spot in your eye could indicate skin cancer in your eye. An optometrist will be able to provide more information on whether a spot is cause for concern and needs to be investigated further.
  4. Brain pressure. Being overweight can cause a curving of the optic nerve, buckling under pressure, as it were. If the optic nerve is buckling, the optometrist will recommend tests to see if you have increased pressure in your brain, or “idiopathic intracranial hypertension”.
  5. Aneurysm. Optometrists may be one of the few people who can tell if you are at risk of an aneurysm. If you tell your eye doctor that you are experiencing blurred vision, headaches or pain in your eye, this can alert them to the fact that something more serious might be present. They will be able to investigate whether you have a swollen optic nerve, pressure in your eye or bleeding in the eye.
  6. Hypoglycaemia. Having blood sugar levels that are considerably lower than they should be can cause a twitch in the eye – and tip your optometrist off to the fact that you could have hypoglycaemia (an abnormally low level of glucose in your blood, which means your body doesn’t have enough energy to function properly, and could indicate diabetes).
  7. Mental health. In recent years, eye specialists have used the same technology used to diagnose glaucoma to help diagnose mental health concerns such as schizophrenia by mapping eye movement patterns.
  8. Not enough Vitamin A. If you are not getting enough fruit and vegetables in your diet, or a sufficiently varied selection of them, you might be lower than you should be in your vitamin A stores. An optometrist will be able to tell if you are lacking by the condition of the surface of your eye.
  9. Cholesterol. An optometrist is able to detect cholesterol at its earlier stages. The giveaway is the fatty deposits that can be yellow in appearance and form on the eyelids. They don’t cause discomfort but they are a sign of things not being optimal in your heart’s health.
  10. Cancer. Metastatic cancers often present themselves in the eyes before any other symptoms show up. The eyes can show a yellowish tinge, which alerts the optometrist to the possibility of cancer.

Find your local optometrist here on Eldernet

About Eve Williams

Eve Williams
Eve Williams is the Production and Social Media Administrator for Eldernet. She is currently studying towards her Masters at the University of Canterbury. She has a passion for learning new things.

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