Eye Exams Can Detect More Than Eye Problems

Many people with vision problems go to an eye doctor once a year to check their prescription. During eye exams eye doctors also check for other diseases that can be detected in the eyes. These exams are equally important for those who need glasses or contacts and for those with 20/20 vision.


One group of diseases, diabetes mellitus, is frequently detected through eye exams, according to Medline Plus. Diabetic retinopathy—damage to the blood vessels in the retina—is a common symptom that causes vision changes. These changes, while harmful, may help save a patient from further harm from diabetes by providing an early warning.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

High blood pressure puts patients at an increased risk for heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks. Despite these serious risks, hypertension rarely gives patients any noticeable symptoms. Medline Plus notes that it is often diagnosed through the eye exam. A regular component of a standard eye exam that involves shining a light into the pupil and using a powerful magnifying glass to look at the inside of the eye, which can reveal the signs the disease.

Autoimmune Diseases

Common autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Graves' disease, and rheumatoid arthritis may seem unrelated to the eyes, but they often have subtle symptoms that show up in the eyes first, according to American Family Physician. While primary care doctors give your eyes a cursory look at your yearly physical, they do not perform the full range of tests available to a specialized ophthalmologist. Diagnosing and treating autoimmune diseases before you begin to suffer from intense symptoms can make a huge difference in the long-term effects of the illness.

Skin Cancer of the Eyelid

Naturally, eye-specific diseases are often found most easily through an eye examination. Nonmelanoma skin cancers occur in the eyelid more than nearly anywhere else on the body, accounting for as much as 10 percent of all skin cancers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. These tumors are hard to detect because they tend to grow under the skin and can remain hidden for years. While skin cancer on the eyelid is rarely fatal, it can damage the eyes and surrounding tissue if left untreated. The small lumps, bumps, and lesions that occur can most easily be spotted by an eye doctor during a checkup.

Ocular (or Uveal) Melanoma

Melanoma, a less common but deadlier type of skin cancer, can affect the iris and surrounding structures of eye. Approximately 50 percent of cases of ocular melanoma metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, according to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation. Metastasis is often fatal. Because these cancers usually grow in parts of the eye that you cannot see and often progress with no early symptoms, your eye doctor is likely to be the only one who can detect them. You can reduce your risk of ocular melanoma by protecting your eyes from the sun with UV-blocking sunglasses.

For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.