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What Do Your Eyes Say About You?

You can tell a lot about a person through their eyes. But did you know your eyes can also tell a VSP doctor a lot about you? Even if you’ve had laser vision surgery or have naturally good vision, you still need an annual eye exam.

In addition to such eye diseases as cataracts and glaucoma, a routine eye exam can help detect signs of serious health conditions, like diabetes and high cholesterol. This is important, since you won't always notice the symptoms yourself — and since some of these diseases cause early and irreversible damage.

“I’ve been providing eye exams for more than 12 years now,” Dr. Kurt DeVito, O.D., from Norfolk Virginia, says. “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!”

Maybe you’ve heard of or received a vision screening. It’s not the same as a complete exam. Says Dr. DeVito: “Screenings are partial, limited eye evaluations that take place outside an eye doctor’s office. There’s no doubt that they can be helpful at times in detecting some problems with vision, but I encourage patients to have a thorough eye exam in an optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s office. The doctor can take an entire eyecare history and patients can take advantage of the doctor’s diagnostic and treatment tools.”

Why is this important? Consider:

  • Nearly one-third of Americans over the age of 40 have a vision problem.1
  • The number of blind or visually impaired Americans is expected to double by the year 2020.2
  • Vision disorders are the second most prevalent health problem in the country, affecting more than 120 million people.3
  • Studies show that workers with visual impairments are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs and may be absent more frequently to deal with the stress and fatigue caused by their vision problems.4
  • Blindness or vision problems are among the top 10 disabilities among adults aged 18 years and older.5
  • Diabetic retinopathy can occur up to seven years before diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, and up to 21% of people with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy when they are first diagnosed with diabetes. This means an eye exam could lead to an earlier diagnosis for people who do not know they have the disease.6

“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,” says Dr. DeVito. “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.”

[1] The Vision Council, “Vision Care: Focusing on the Workplace Benefit,” 2008
[2] The Vision Council, “Vision Care: Focusing on the Workplace Benefit,” 2008
[3] Kleinstein, Robert N. 1984. “Vision Disorders in Public Health.” Annual Review of Public Health 5:369-384.
[4] Vision Council of America, “Vision in Business,” 2007
[5] 1999 Survey of Income and Program Participation, The Centers for Disease Control, 2001
[6] Onset of NIDDM occurs at least 4-7 yr before clinical diagnosis, Diabetes Care, Vol 15, Issue 7 815-819