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Have you had an eye exam recently? Did you answer “no”? Do you think you don’t need regular eye exams because you have perfect vision? Hate to break it to you, but you’ve got another think coming.

Not only are regular eye examinations important for the health of your peepers, but they are also helpful for diagnosing illness through the eyes — even when it comes to diseases that have nothing to do with your sight. Read on to learn about ten life-altering conditions that can be detected at the eye doctor’s.


When the doctor takes a look at your eyes, she may see tiny specks of blood. That can be an indication that your blood sugar level isn’t where it should be. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels located in the light-sensitive retina become swollen or closed off.  New, albeit abnormal, blood vessels can also grow on the surface of the retina as a result of diabetic retinopathy.

Even without retinopathy, diabetes can cause problems with your vision — some of which can be permanent.


Everyone gets blurry vision once in a while, and the occasional occurrence isn’t usually indicative of a problem. Yet in other cases, blurry vision could mean that you have a tumor in the brain or in the eye itself.

One type of cancer that may be able to be detected when your eye is dilated is choroidal melanoma. Other types are not symptomatic, but can be caught early if they are seen during an eye exam.

While cancer can run the gamut from deadly to benign, why take chances with your vision — or your life?

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Did you know that syphilis is on the rise? This sexually transmitted disease, if left untreated, can lead to blindness, paralysis, and dementia, among other issues. However, it’s relatively easy to treat, often with a single dose of penicillin, if detected early enough.

One of the symptoms of syphilis is pupils that are slightly different in size. So make that appointment for your eye exam, and keep it.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you know anyone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, you are probably well aware that the operative word there is “suffer.” This is a painful and debilitating disease, but if RA is caught early, it stands a better chance of being treated successfully.

Two of the symptoms that might lead to a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis include dry eye and a burning sensation in the eyes. If you have either of those symptoms, mention it to your eye doctor during your annual exam.


Blood vessels in the back of the eye can become blocked if the patient is at risk for a stroke. It’s difficult to detect these blockages without an eye exam. Older patients, in particular, may be able to discover that they are at risk for stroke simply by getting their eyes checked out.

High Blood Pressure

Similarly, high blood pressure can be noted in eye patients, often well before other symptoms present. The appearance of bulging veins in the eye, or of arteriovenous nicking, which is the indentation of retinal veins by retinal arteries, can be a tip-off that a patient’s blood pressure warrants treatment.

Thyroid Disease

Have you noticed that your eyelashes seem thinner than they used to? This can be a result of the natural aging process, but it can also be an indication of thyroid disease. Other such indications, of hyperthyroidism, in particular, are eyelids that retract or bulging eyes.

Crohn’s Disease

You’d be forgiven for not making the connection between eye inflammation and Crohn’s disease. After all, this autoimmune disorder affects the gastrointestinal tract, leading to diarrhea, constipation, nausea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain.

However, the immune system will often attack the delicate tissues of the eyes, especially during the early stages of Crohn’s. This means that eye inflammation may alert you to Crohn’s even before inflammation of the GI tract presents.

Lyme Disease

Another autoimmune condition, Lyme disease, is also frequently connected to ophthalmological problems. These can include optic neuritis, retinitis, macular edema, and vitreitis, to name just a few.

If your eyes are frequently red, inflamed, itchy, or otherwise bothersome, with no apparent cause, make an appointment to see your eye doctor. Make sure to mention those symptoms.

Vitamin A Deficiency

You are probably already aware that Vitamin A is important for good eye health. Vitamin A plays a role in protecting the eye from bacteria. However, a regular ophthalmological exam can also be a window into Vitamin A deficiency before the eye itself is affected.

Weight-loss surgery patients, including those who have had gastric bypass surgery, are at risk for Vitamin A deficiency. A plaque on the surface of the eye may indicate this issue.

How Often Should You Get Your Eyes Checked?

Adults who are otherwise healthy should have an eye exam:

  • Every five to 10 years between ages 20-40
  • Every two to four years between ages 40-54
  • Every one to three years between ages 55-64
  • Every one to two years at age 65 and above

Consult with your primary care physician, optometrist, or ophthalmologist if you:

  • Have impaired vision that requires you to wear glasses or contact lenses
  • Have any type of eye disease in your family history
  • Have a chronic disease such as diabetes

Final Thoughts About Diagnosing Illness Through the Eyes

Of course, regular eye exams can also help detect diseases and conditions that affect the eyes and vision, such as glaucoma. So they are important simply for the health of your eyes. The fact that eye doctors may also be diagnosing illness through the eyes is an added bonus!

Whether you need a comprehensive eye exam, it’s time to renew your contact lens prescription, you want to discuss laser eye surgery, or you simply need a stylish pair of prescription sunglasses, contact Abba Eye Care today!