Regular eye exams can reveal vital warning signs about your overall health.
Your vision is one of the most important parts of your overall health. It is often overlooked and precisely why getting regular eye exams is so important.
Consistent, comprehensive eye exams can detect vision problems such as cataracts and presbyopia. These are often the result of aging and eye disease like glaucoma.
An eye exam can also indicate other underlying health issues such as diabetes and hypertension – before you are even aware of the symptoms.
“Many of the changes that occur as a result of diabetes or high blood pressure do not cause you to develop vision problems until later on,” says Dr. Carola Okogbaa, an ophthalmologist at St. Francis Cypress Rural Health Clinic, an affiliate of West Feliciana Hospital.
“That’s why routine eye exams are key for early detection.” As a board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Okogbaa specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases. She performs both cataract and glaucoma surgery.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Glaucoma
Having diabetes—when your blood sugar is higher than normal—also increases your risk of vision impairment. Diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which is a condition that causes damage to the retina (delicate tissue inside your eye that filters light). Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy is the single biggest predictor for vision loss.
If you’re a diabetic, you’re not only at risk for developing diabetic eye disease, you also have a higher risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma occurs when pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve and result in permanent loss of vision.
Lowering your risk of diabetes
“To protect your vision and overall eye health, you should schedule an eye exam every year,” says Dr. Okogbaa. “This appointment includes an eye examination in addition to a series of tests to evaluate the health of your eyes.”
You can also lower your risk of diabetes by implementing healthy lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and losing weight. In addition, eating a more balanced, unprocessed diet built around foods that are high in fiber and whole grains can help in the fight against diabetes.
Ask your primary physician about blood glucose screening if you are: older than 45 or overweight with a family history of diabetes. Research shows that most people with prediabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within 10 years.