2010-12-30 / Family

What Your Eyes Tell You About Your Health

Everyone knows the eyes are the windows to the soul, but few people realize they are also windows to your overall health, allowing eye doctors to see signs of chronic conditions.

The eyes are the only place doctors can get a clear view of blood vessels, which can be significantly altered by conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. An eye exam can often prevent complications from conditions like diabetes, by catching problems early.

With this in mind, families are being encouraged to get annual comprehensive eye exams.

What Eye Doctors See

What gives eye doctors the advantage over other specialists? By examining the cornea, retina, and the flow of blood through vessels around the eye, eye doctors can detect signs of health problems, including blood vessel leakage, retinal swelling and fatty deposits on the retina.

This early detection can help prevent and treat many conditions. For this reason, comprehensive eye exams by optometrists and ophthalmologists are about more than simply determining if you need glasses. They’re a way to detect signs of serious conditions, such as diabetes and vascular diseases.

Diabetes and Vision

People who may or may not know they have diabetes often visit their eye doctors first, because they’re experiencing sudden changes in vision due to fluctuations in their blood sugar.

“The National Eye Institute estimates that more than 4 million people over the age of 40 have diabetic retinopathy, a condition marked by damage to the blood vessels in the retina,” says Susan Egbert, Director of Eye Health Management at VSP Vision Care. “This condition can lead to blindness if not treated early.”

However, with annual eye examinations, 90 percent of all diabetes-related blindness can be prevented. Remember, diabetes is a disease that affects the whole body. It’s not enough to know you have it; you have to prevent and treat its complications as well.

Get Checked Annually

Everyone, even children, needs to get an eye exam every year to make sure his or her eyes are healthy. If you don’t have insurance that covers eyecare and eyewear, look into a vision plan, such as VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision care company in the country with a network of 27,000 private practice doctors.

A comprehensive eye exam will not only check for 20/20 vision, but examine eye muscle coordination, peripheral vision, test for glaucoma and look for signs of chronic conditions like diabetes.

For more information on eyecare and the effects of diabetes, visit www.vsp.com/ada.

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