3 Ways Your Optometrist Can Detect Systemic Illness


While many illnesses lead to symptoms that make you feel sick, other health conditions may be asymptomatic, producing no symptoms at all. Even though a medical condition may not produce physical symptoms, eye doctors can sometimes discover serious health problems just by performing a simple examination. Here are three ways your eye examination can reveal illnesses, and what you can do about them: 

Yellow Sclera

The sclera, also known as the white part of your eye, can look red or bloodshot when you have an infection or are tired. During an eye exam, your optometrist will evaluate your sclera to look for changes in color that may reveal a medical disorder.

For example, if your sclera is yellow, you may have a condition known as jaundice, which is often seen in those with hepatic, or liver dysfunction. Yellowing of the skin or eyes is due to the buildup of a pigmented substance known as bilirubin, and can be toxic to your body if produced in large quantities. If your eye exam reveals jaundice, your eye doctor may refer you back to your primary physician for further evaluation and treatment. 


Rapid back and forth or up and down eye movements are otherwise known as nystagmus, and is sometimes seen in neurological disorders and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Nystagmus can lead to visual disturbances, dizziness, and loss of balance; however, special prism glasses and certain medications can help control these involuntary ocular movements. Nystagmus can be very noticeable, or it can be subtle. If you have nystagmus, your doctor may recommend that you visit a neurologist to determine the cause so that an effective treatment plan can be implemented. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have diabetes, your eyes may be the first parts of your body to show symptoms. High levels of blood glucose or long-standing diabetes can lead to damage of the blood vessels behind the retina.

While retinopathy can lead to visual loss, you may not know you have it until you get a dilated eye exam. If your eye doctor tells you that you have diabetic retinopathy, work with your endocrinologist to maintain tight control over your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, weight management, and medication. Severe retinopathy can sometimes be treated with laser surgery, which will help treat the leaky blood vessels of diabetic eye disease.

If your eye examination reveals any of the above medical conditions, see your primary physician for further evaluation. An optometrist like those at the California Eye Specialists Medical Group Inc. can suggest interventions to help manage both your ocular problems as well as your systemic illness. 


16 January 2017

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