Visiting the eye doctor every year may seem unnecessary. If you just got new lenses last year or you’ve always had perfect vision, you may wonder, “Why should I go?”
But an eye doctor is just that, a doctor. He or she isn’t just looking at your eyesight, but your eyes — one of our most important organs. He or she can even flag some surprising things about your overall health. Here are 10 things your eye doctor can check or tell you.
- Your retinas. The health of your retinas is critical to your eyesight. An optometrist can tell if your retinas are at risk of detaching, meaning they have pulled away from your eye. If your retinas detach, you will see bright flashes of light, more floaters, or a curtain in front of your vision — and then nothing. Retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision loss. If this happens to you, go to the emergency room immediately. But your annual visit to an eye doctor will alert him or her if you’re at risk for this occurring.
- Your blood pressure. An eye doctor can tell if your blood pressure is consistently high, which can lead to a variety of health problems. That way you can visit your primary care physician to learn more and create a plan to correct it.
- Chlamydia. Yes, believe it or not, this has happened. Your eye doctor can tell if you have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis using a “slit lamp” to examine your eye tissues. If you have a case of pink eye that just won’t go away, see your doctor about a possible case of chlamydia. The sooner you get it treated, the better.
- Vitamin deficiencies. Not quite feeling right? You might have a vitamin deficiency, and your eyes will show it.
- Anemia. Similar to a vitamin deficiency, your optometrist can tell if your red blood cell count is low. Anemia can cause a lot of discomfort, including dizziness, a fast or unusual heartbeat, headache, pain, shortness of breath, weakness, cold hands or feet, and more.
- Macular degeneration. MD is an incurable eye disease, and it’s the leading cause of vision loss. (See a picture of what it looks like to see with MD.) Scientists are still determining the causes of macular degeneration, but age and genetics play a role. The sooner we discover it starting, the better chance you have of keeping your eyesight.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of losing their eyesight. People with diabetes should visit the eye doctor each year to make sure their eyes remain healthy.
- Vasculitis is inflammation of your blood vessels. It can affect one organ or several. If it’s affecting your eyes, your doctor may not catch it. Vasculitis can cause organ damage and blindness, and it’s critical to find it early.
- Tumors. While tumors aren’t common in the eyes, if you have cancer, it’s one more area to monitor for spreading or secondary tumors.
- Your vision. Of course! But we include this because many people come for a checkup thinking they have 20/20 vision and don’t need to adjust their prescription. Often we find they have vision far worse in one eye and didn’t realize it.
That’s 10 reasons to make your appointment for 2020.