Eye Exams Detect Non-Eye Health Problems

  • BY Lainie Petersen

female optometrist eye exam
Getting regular eye exams is important for eye health. When you see your eye doctor regularly, you not only avoid the discomfort of eye strain caused by needing glasses, but your doctor can identify the early signs of serious eye conditions such as glaucoma. If caught early, your eye doctor can often prevent or slow the loss of eyesight in the affected eye or eyes.

There’s another reason why getting your eyes checked can be good for your health. An eye exam can reveal symptoms of hypertension, diabetes and even high cholesterol.

Optometrists and ophthalmologists say they can identify other health problems while performing an eye exam. Diabetes, for example, is suggested by lens swelling, while blood vessel changes in the eye can point to hypertension. Inflammation of the optic nerve can be an early symptom of multiple sclerosis. If your eye doctor notices any of these things, he or she will tell you that you should contact your personal physician for proper diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment for your non-eye related condition.

How Often Should I Have an Eye Exam?

The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends that adults under the age of 40 have their eyes checked every two to four years. After 40, and up to 54, it’s wise to get an eye exam every one to three years. From 55-64, every one to two years, and adults aged 65 and older should get an exam every six to twelve months. Of course, you should always talk to your eye doctor about your own needs: He or she may want to see you more often due to your own medical needs or a family history of eye problems.

In all cases, if you notice changes in your vision or experience eye discomfort, make an appointment to see an eye doctor immediately, regardless of when you had your last exam.