The 7 most dangerous diseases revealed by your eyes
Ophthalmologists and optometrists tell us about the 7 dangerous diseases they can detect by examining the eyes of their patients.
1 /7 Some cancers can be detected with an eye exam, or an ophthalmic exam.
Your eyes can detect cancer
An eye exam could save your life. We can track everything from brain tumours to breast and lung cancer, says Joseph Pizzimenti, optometrist and associate professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry Eye Care Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Certain types of retinal bleeding can also indicate leukaemia.
Eye doctors can diagnose a brain tumour through changes in the patient’s field of vision. Malignant melanomas can appear in the back of the eye and the patient will not have a clue until the tumour reaches the centre of vision, says Dr Pizzimenti.
Do you see your ophthalmologist regularly?
Don’t be surprised if you are asked this question during your annual checkup.
The retina, or the back of the eye, is indeed the only place on your body that gives doctors a very close view of the vessels and nerves without the need to open.
The eye examination routine is very useful for detecting health problems at a very early stage. Eye specialists tell us more about the diseases they can help diagnose during an exam.
Discover in the next few pages the most dangerous diseases that your eyes can reveal.
2 /7 It is possible to screen for diabetes with an eye exam.
Detecting diabetes by eyes
One of the first symptoms of type 2 diabetes is sometimes manifested by small bleeding in the retina, a sign of diabetic retinopathy. “I see patients every day who have this symptom and in whom diabetes has not yet been diagnosed,” says Dr Pizzimenti.
If left untreated, this condition can lead to blindness, but taking the lead can cut that risk in half. When diabetic retinopathy is detected at an early stage, lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and weight loss can prevent more serious consequences. Watch for these silent signs of diabetes.
3 /7 Hypertension can be detected with an eye exam.
Hypertension detected by the eyes
Damage to blood vessels, including weakening and narrowing of the arteries, can signal a problem with high blood pressure, warns Dr Jessica Ciralsky, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York.
Many large-scale studies have linked heart disease to the narrowing of small retinal vessels, according to an article in the American Journal of Medicine. This relationship is particularly strong in people showing other risk factors for heart disease.
4 /7 By examining the eyes, one can detect optic neuritis
Inflammation of the optic nerve – can be a harbinger of multiple sclerosis. An eye exam can reveal multiple sclerosis
Optic neuritis – inflammation of the optic nerve – can be a harbinger of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system, says Mitchell Munson, president of the American Association of Optometrists.
Optic neuritis occurs in 75 per cent of patients with multiple sclerosis and is the first sign of it in 25 per cent of cases. (Please note: optic neuritis does not automatically indicate that you have multiple sclerosis; it can be caused by infection or other causes.) “Patients with optic neuritis often have blurred vision, but I have already diagnosed this in patients who did not have any symptoms, “says Dr Munson.
About 25 per cent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis have vision problems; dryness of the eye being the most common.
Another track: if a patient makes attacks of iritis – painful inflammation of the iris or the coloured part of the eye – during the same year or three attacks in 18 months, one can suspect rheumatoid arthritis, explains Dr Munson.
People with rheumatoid arthritis that affects the joints of the hand and feet have a level of inflammatory substances in the blood five times higher than normal. Sometimes these substances migrate into the eye as well as the joints, says Dr Munson.
6 /7 It is possible to better detect and prevent a stroke by examining the eyes
Detect a stroke through an eye exam
Stroke is a sudden brain dysfunction caused by an interruption in blood supply, which is caused by blockage (ischemia) or rupture (haemorrhage) of a vessel.
Liz Rodovich’s stroke was ischemic and had impaired vision in the left eye. A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a mini-stroke caused by a clot that temporarily lodges in the eye or in the part of the brain that is the seat of vision.
What the eye specialist notes : He will not see the clot that causes AIT because it dissolves quickly. When the patient shows up, everything is back to normal. The diagnosis is therefore based on symptoms and medical history.
What the patient experiences : painless loss, total or partial, of sight in one eye, which lasts from a few minutes to several hours.
What happens next : the patient is referred to a specialized clinic for a full examination. “The risk of stroke is much greater among victims of TIA because they have already had a mini-stroke,” says Setareh Ziai. We recommend a general examination to prevent a more serious accident. ”
7 /7 Prevent and detect hormonal problems through the eyes.
Detecting hormonal disorders with an eye exam
” Hormones play a vital role in preserving the tear film and the ocular surface,” says Ziai.
What the eye specialist sees : redness, inflammation, and dryness of the eye surface with mucus secretion.
What the patient experiences : blurred vision, burning and irritation, feeling of sand in the eyes, difficulty in staring at a computer screen (eyelid swings then decrease by 66%).
What happens next : An ophthalmologist can prescribe various treatments to alleviate the discomfort. For example, lubricating drops, ointment, warm compresses, eyelid cleansing, or omega 3 acid supplements.
Other symptoms to watch for:
Bulging eyes are sometimes a sign of disthyroid ophthalmopathy, a disorder associated with autoimmune thyroid disease and characterized by swelling of the muscles and tissues of the eye and orbit.
Pupil abnormalities (difference in size or abnormal reaction to light, for example) may be due to an illness.
Yellow eyes are sometimes a manifestation of liver damage. Hepatitis and cirrhosis yellow the whites of the eyes.
Redness, pain and inflammation of the ocular envelopes characterize scleritis, asymptomatic condition of several autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Eye spasms, those annoying blinks, are caused by irritation of the muscle fibres. Their underlying cause is almost always benign; they are often triggered by stress, fatigue or caffeine.