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Fight avoidable blindness and other serious diseases with a simple eye exam

Sightsavers 14 May 2014

The eyes are windows to the soul. But more than that, they provide us a vital glimpse into the health status of our body. By looking deep inside the back of the eye, doctors can examine our nerves and blood vessels without having to cut us open. An eye exam can therefore help look for more than just signs of avoidable blindness. It can also spot serious health conditions such as:

  1. Brain Tumor
    A tumor in the brain can trigger a rise in intracranial pressure, which causes the optic disc to swell. A swollen optic disc is easily detected in an eye exam, often much earlier than other symptoms of brain tumor such as headaches and nausea. This is the reason why a significant number of brain tumors are first detected by optometrists.
  2. Cancer
    In this case, getting your eyes checked can prove to be a life-saving exercise. Certain forms of blood in the eye can indicate the presence of leukemia (blood cancer), while breast, lung and other forms of cancers can be detected if their effects have spread to the eyes. Cancerous growths can also occur in the eye itself. An eye exam can therefore help detect multiple kinds of cancer.
  3. Diabetes
    Diabetes is a serious systemic disease that affects multiple parts of the body and further complicates existing health conditions. One of the first indications of type 2 diabetes is a small amount of bleeding in the retina. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels in the retina, and is a leading cause of avoidable blindness.
  4. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
    MS is an inflammatory disease that damages nerve cells and disrupts the nervous system’s ability to communicate with various parts of the body. An inflamed optic nerve is often an early signal of MS and can be viewed through the eye. Eye exams also help identify other neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
  5. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
    Arterial damage and narrowing of blood vessels in the eye are strong indicators of high blood pressure. Hypertension puts strain on the heart, and left untreated, is also a major risk factor for stroke and kidney disease.

For these reasons, it is strongly recommended to get your eyes checked at least once a year and make sure you are protected from avoidable blindness and other serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, neurological diseases, etc.

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