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4 Surprising Diseases That an Eye Exam Can Uncover

If there was a relatively simple exam that could help your doctor detect or prevent a wide range of serious health problems, you probably wouldn't hesitate to schedule an appointment. Many people don't know that routine eye exams provide vital information about their overall health and half of all Americans opt out of their annual eye doctor visit. Eye exams can be just as effective as a physical at detecting the early stages of certain health problems. If caught early, many of these conditions can be treated more effectively or even prevented. Here are some health problems that eye exams can detect.


The effects of diabetes can be seen throughout the body, but your eye doctor may be able to detect the disease by examining the blood vessels in the back of your eyes. An early indicator of diabetic retinopathy, a symptom of diabetes, is a small amount of retinal bleeding or yellowish discharge. If this condition is diagnosed and treated early, healthy lifestyle changes can help you prevent further eye damage including blindness.

Multiple Sclerosis

Eye exams are an effective way to detect optic neuritis, a disease linked to multiple sclerosis. Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve and can be the first symptom many of those with the condition may experience. Although some people with multiple sclerosis have vision loss, eye pain, or reduced color vision, many have no symptoms at all. If optic neuritis leads to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, prompt treatment can lessen or reduce the symptoms.

High Blood Pressure

If your eye doctor detects damage to your blood vessels or narrowed arteries when examining the back of your eyes, it may be an indicator you have high blood pressure. This condition is linked to dangerous health problems including heart disease and strokes. Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms but when it's caught early, the condition can be effectively managed through lifestyle changes and medication.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

People with a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis have elevated levels of chemicals in their blood which causes inflammation throughout the body. Although the small joints in the hands and feet are commonly affected, about one-quarter of those diagnosed suffer from eye issues including dryness. Dry or burning eyes could be the first sign of this autoimmune disease. An eye exam may detect the disease early so you can take steps to treat the problem and alleviate the symptoms.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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