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What Do Your Eyes Say About Your Health?

You may be surprised to learn that yearly eye exams are an easy and important way to protect your eyes and overall health. A routine eye exam can help detect signs of serious health conditions, like diabetes, a brain tumor and high cholesterol.

Because symptoms of health conditions often don't appear until damage has already occurred, eye exams are a great way to keep tabs on what's happening in your body. Your eyes are the only place in your body that provide a clear view of your blood vessels, arteries, and a cranial nerve which can tell your doctor a lot about your overall health.

The Eye is a Unique Window into Health

The following eye doctors share cases of patients with serious health risks that would have remained hidden had their patients not come in for a routine eye exam.

Tumors and Diabetes: "I've been providing eye exams for more than 12 years now," says Dr. Kurt DeVito, O.D., from Norfolk Virginia. "During that time, I've diagnosed four different tumors and several cases of diabetes in patients who didn't even know they had a health problem!"

"In recent years, I've had several situations in which I detected the presence of blood in the back of the eye, which is one of the first signs of diabetes. Those patients first learned they had a serious health condition during a routine eye exam in my office. I think that's a great example of how worthwhile an annual eye exam can be."

Comprehensive eye exam video

Brain Tumor: Dr. Randy Lee, O.D., owner and lead optometrist at the Optometric Center in Boise, Idaho, discovered a brain tumor in one patient during a routine annual eye exam:

Dr. Lee tested the patient's peripheral vision, and found it was worse as well. "I decided to take a picture of his left eye using retinal photography," Dr. Lee said. "I saw blurriness in the eye, which was caused by the optic nerve swelling and damaging the patient's vision."

Realizing this could be a sign of a tumor, Dr. Lee referred the patient to his primary care doctor. Additional tests found that the patient had a benign brain tumor, which was removed. Dr. Lee now checks the patient's optic nerve during his annual eye exam to make sure the tumor hasn't returned.

"I'm so glad we caught the brain tumor in the early stages," Dr. Lee said. "Had it gotten worse, it would have caused major damage to the patient's vision, and other health problems."

Your eye doctor will look for signs of health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. Early detection and treatment is the best way for you to keep your body—and wallet—healthy. Get that important eye exam appointment on your calendar now.