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1.  A comprehensive eye exam can do more than test your vision – it could help save your life. A number of potentially serious health conditions can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam.

  • Comprehensive eye exams can help detect eye diseases and serve as early indicators of a number of potentially serious health conditions, ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to certain forms of cancer.
  • Other health conditions that may show symptoms in the eyes include tumours, aneurysms, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, sickle cell disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological or brain disorders.

  • Comprehensive eye exams provide optometrists a close-up look at your blood vessels, optic nerves, and other complex eye structures, all of which may contain clues to conditions that could pose a serious risk to your health.

High blood pressure

  • Doctors of optometry may be the first healthcare professionals to detect high blood pressure.
  • Eye health can often signal the presence and state of serious medical conditions, such as hypertension, which is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke and chronic heart failure.
  • By looking at the blood vessels in the retina inside the eye, an eye exam can help identify risks for stroke or heart attack.
  • The information obtained through an eye exam can help healthcare providers treat patients preventively to decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes

  • Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in your retina, the light sensitive tissue inside your eye. Optometrists sometimes see indicators of diabetes in the eyes before the disease is formally diagnosed.[1]
  • As many as one million Canadians are living with undiagnosed diabetes[2]. Early detection of diabetes through an eye exam not only reduces risk of vision loss, but can minimize the risk of other life threatening complications such as heart disease and kidney failure.
  • Eye examinations may reveal the effects of poor diabetes management, indicating a need for lifestyle and diet changes, better compliance with treatment, or medication modification.

Cancer

  • A comprehensive eye exam can identify unusual structures and growths within the eye, including a rare form of cancer called choroidal melanoma which develops within the cells that make pigmentation in the eye and can be life threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body.
  • Brain tumours, depending on their location in the brain, can cause loss of peripheral vision, optic nerve changes, abnormal eye movements, double vision, or other changes in vision. A comprehensive eye exam includes tests of peripheral vision and eye muscle function and can often be the first line of detection of a brain tumour.
  • Skin cancer can also be detected through an eye exam, as lesions called basal cell carcinomas can show up on the eyelid and, in rare occasions, can spread to the brain through the eye. The eye and its surrounding tissues are one of the most common areas of the body where skin cancer is first diagnosed.[3]

                Neurological Conditions and Brain Injuries

  • The optic nerve in the eye is essentially an extension of the brain and carries signals from the retina’s nerve cells to the brain for processing. Neurological conditions that affect nerve cells, such as multiple sclerosis, may affect vision and be detected through an eye exam.
  • The muscles in the eye, responsible for eye movements, are controlled through nerves that arise directly from the brain. Several neurological conditions, which affect the brain, including Parkinson’s disease and Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, can affect eye movements and even cause double vision.
  • Mental health conditions and brain injuries, including strokes, may affect parts of the brain that control eye coordination and tracking. Strokes can also cause peripheral vision loss on one side or the other. A comprehensive eye exam can detect problems with eye movement. Vision training or spectacle (eyeglass) therapy can improve the ability of the eyes to track and work together.

2.  All eye tests are not created equally. Only a comprehensive eye exam tests the health of your eyes and their connection to your overall health.

  • The exams conducted by a doctor of optometry are much more than a sight test or screening test, which only measure how well you see. A comprehensive eye exam looks at the overall health of your visual system, and helps to identify underlying health conditions that can show early signs in the eyes.
  • The comprehensive eye exam is a series of procedures, ranging from simple tests, like having you read an eye chart, to more complex examinations, such as using a high-powered microscope to examine the tiny structures inside of your eyes. Think of it as a physical for your eyes.
 

[1]http://www.visionmonday.com/CMSDocuments/2016/1/Comprehensive%20Eye%20Exams%20Health%20Brief_DIGITAL.pdf

[2] https://www.diabetes.ca/newsroom/search-news/canadians-urged-to-check-their-risk-of-diabetes

[3] http://www.visionmonday.com/CMSDocuments/2016/1/Comprehensive%20Eye%20Exams%20Health%20Brief_DIGITAL.pdf

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