How a Routine Eye Exam Could Save Your Life

What do eye exams reveal about your health and wellness?

As the saying goes, our eyes are our windows to the world. From the moment we wake up until we go to bed at night, our eyes are helping us to see and process the people and places around us.

But did you know that our eyes can also be windows to our health? While you might think that a routine eye exam is only used to look for problems with our vision like nearsightedness, glaucoma or cataracts, the exam also can uncover signs of other health problems.

How Often Should I Get My Eyes Checked?

Healthy adults in their 20s and 30s who are not experiencing any vision or eye-related symptoms should have their eyes checked every five to 10 years, says the Mayo Clinic. By the time you hit 40, you should go in for a checkup every two to four years until you turn 65. After that, go in yearly or every other year.

If you wear glasses, have diabetes or if close family members have a history of eye problems, you should go in more frequently. This means that even if you love ordering your glasses or contacts from a convenient online retailer like Vision Direct, you need to take the time for regular eye exams. In addition to ensuring that you are buying the correct prescription, the checkup will look for other issues that may have started since your last appointment.

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The Link Between Our Eyes and Overall Health

In addition to catching conditions like diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, the Centers for Disease Control notes that people who have eye problems have an increased risk of having heart problems, lower back pain, strokes, diabetes and poor hearing. This link between eye issues and other health problems underscores the need for regular exams.

Furthermore, a large number of seniors who have severe vision issues report that their overall health is fair or poor. Conversely, only around 20 percent of older Americans with healthy eyes rated their overall health as being bad, explains the CDC. Eye exams can reveal signs that you have an autoimmune disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or even a sexually-transmitted disease like AIDS or herpes, states ZDNet.

How Can an Eye Exam Reveal Health Issues?

Using the right type of equipment, your ophthalmologist should be able to see possible signs of other health conditions by checking your optic nerve, retina and connective tissues. Your optic nerves are the only place in your body where a doctor can examine your blood vessels in a minimally invasive way and without having to make an incision. In some cases, ophthalmologists can detect signs of diabetes in the eyes’ blood vessels as much as seven years before it reveals itself in the rest of the body, claims ZDNet. Although it can be upsetting to learn that you may have an autoimmune condition or diabetes, it’s certainly better in the long run to get these diagnoses as early as possible.

About the Author: Alison Stanton has been a freelance writer for the past 14 years. Based in the Phoenix, Arizona area, Alison enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, but especially loves meeting interesting people and telling their stories.