Eye Exams Can Reveal Many Other Health Problems
I have previously written about the importance of scheduling annual eye exams, but what I didn’t mention is that those exams could benefit you in ways you might have thought of.
In April, Good Morning America published a story about a man named “Evan,” that perfectly illustrates why annual appointments with an optometrist are absolutely crucial. According to the story, the 37-year-old had long suffered from chronic back pain, but like many people, didn’t think much of it.
“I never really addressed it,” Evan said. “OK, I have back pain — everyone has back pain.”
But, as a trip to his eye doctor confirmed, it wasn’t just back pain, it was ankylosing spondylitis (AS). His doctor discovered the problem after asking Evan if he was experiencing back pain along side his periodic bouts of iritis. That’s when he was referred to a rheumatologist by his optometrist to treat his AS, which is a “relatively common but incurable form of inflammatory arthritis that strikes young adults, causing chronic pain and sometimes more serious damage to the heart and other organs.”
This is just one example of the types of medical problems that can first be discovered via an eye exam. Other diseases like diabetes, cancer and more can be seen by eye doctors. Please take the time to read the rest of the article to learn more about this very important issue.
Hi There Baseemwahab,
This question may be a little off-topic, I’m 42 and had my annual exam at the optometrist today. For 7-yrs my vision has been stable, I wear contacts but today there was a slight change, it went a half from 5:50-6:00, not much, the doctor said that when you get older your distance usually goes down in numbers not up, so he then told me that catarats, glaucoma, diabetes could cause the change, he examined me and said everything looks fine, ordered me a trial lens for the stronger lens which he said may be great for the distance but not the reading, so I mayb have to wear bifocals. ?, he didn’t dialate my eyes, said it isn’t alwasy necessary, should I go to an opthamologist? Do you have to alwasy get your eyes dialated? Did any of you who wear contacts that are in your early 40’s have an increase in your distance vision as you got older? I’m very confused about it all, I thought as you got older your vision started changing when you hit 40, Thanks much.
Although it is true that many a disease can cause dramatic shifts in your nearsightedness (including but not limited to cataracts, glaucoma and diabetes), a healthy 42 year old male should show very little change in their myopia. Myopia is caused from a combination of corneal steepness along with the axial length of the globe, both of which tend to remain rather stable in mid-life. The change that you described is a rather mild one and you should not be too distressed by it however, if you feel discomfort from the higher prescription then it would be wise to revisit your doctor or get a second opinion. Further, it is true that all patients entering their early forties lose their accommodative (focusing) strength and start to suffer a decrease in their ability to get and keep things clear up close – we call this presbyopia. Again, this is a normal process and for contact lens wearers there are three options: 1) bifocal contact lenses 2) mono-vision contact lenses 3) wearing a pair of over the counter readers over the contact lenses for up close work. Neither of the options are necessarily better than the others, it typically comes down to your doctor fitting you with what works best for your lifestyle. Finally, it is imperative to have your eyes dilated in order to assess all structures inside the eye. Typically in people over 40 years old we do this once a year. It is impossible to get a proper view of peripheral structures without the dilation. Some doctors avoid dilating patients eyes because they feel it is too much of an inconvenience to the patient. You do not need to go see an ophthalmologist to get a comprehensive eye exam. Typically, ophthalmologists are considered eye surgeons and are consulted with if the patient is in need of surgical intervention. Otherwise, an optometrist will perform a similar annual check up as an ophthalmologist would.
Dr. Baseem Wahab