As profound and spiritual as the saying may be, it turns out that our eyes are far more than mere windows to our souls. They can, and often do hint at larger issues for other parts and systems in the human body. Eye doctors have long known that immediate indicators for larger diseases like diabetes sit right inside the eye.
Routine comprehensive eye exams will highlight several leading hints of larger health issues. These exams are, of course, critical to keep a tab directly on eye health itself against problems due to glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal detachment and other vision concerns. But changes in your eyes can also be a leading indicator for diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and lupus, and metastatic cancer.
So, when it comes to your vision, but also the potential non-vision health concerns your eyes can hint at, keep a watchful … eye. And you can do that with vision insurance from your association and AMBA. There are a range of plans that provide the critical coverage you need in order to maintain the best possible eye health once you’ve retired. And they come with the great group rates you’ve enjoyed when you were working full-time. Click here to learn more: www.myambabenefits.info.
In the meantime, here are a few symptoms to watch for:
Damaged or Abnormal Blood Vessels Due to Diabetes
Being a fairly common, multi-headed and highly damaging disease, any advance warning of the onset of diabetes provides an advantage in treatment. Diabetes can damage the eye’s blood vessels and potentially the retina itself through swelling or abnormal blood vessels.
“If an ophthalmologist can see bleeding and swelling in the retina, it’s a strong indication of diabetes,” says ophthalmologist Richard Gans, MD, interviewed for an article published by the renown Cleveland Clinic.1 The good news here is that detection is possible before the vision is actually affected. Treatments by medication or laser can repair damaged blood vessels.
Lowered Circulation in the Eye = High Blood Pressure
“High blood pressure can cause permanent damage to vision by affecting the circulation within the eye,” says Dr. Gans.(1) Such a circulation problem in the eyes can be the initial clue that you could be suffering from hypertension, or high blood pressure. Unfortunately, this is condition is in no way noticeable at home, so an eye doctor visit is required.
Eye Inflammation and Inflammatory Diseases
Inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lupus and others can present themselves in your eyes, too. “There’s a well-known connection between inflammatory diseases and inflammation in the eye,” says Dr. Gans. In fact, ten percent of all Crohn’s patients have eye complications.
Inflammatory diseases frequently trigger uveitis, an inflammation of the middle part of the eye (the uvea). Uveitis can cause permanent eye damage left untreated.
studies and specialists echo this fact.
“The tissues [inside] the eye are very similar to tissues in other parts of the body, so inflammatory diseases that affect other organs, such as the bowel in Crohn’s disease will affect the eye as well,” explains Calvin Roberts, MD, an ophthalmologist and executive vice president and chief medical officer at eye care products company, Bausch & Lomb.
“With Crohn’s, the body attacks the eye similarly to the way it attacks the tissue in the gastrointestinal tract,” says Paul Dougherty, MD, medical director of Dougherty Laser Vision in Los Angeles and a clinical instructor of ophthalmology at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.
Because the eyes are so generally sensitive, eye problems traceable to Crohn’s often present themselves before any intestinal symptoms do. Therefore, if you repeatedly suffer from eye inflammation, have yourself screened for Crohn’s and other inflammatory diseases.
“Cancers by themselves rarely have manifestations in the eye,” Dr. Gans says. “However, there are certain cancers that can spread to the eyes,” he adds. Melanoma is one cancer primary to the eye, but it can often be found elsewhere.Breast cancer is an example that can metastasize to the eye, where it could be found before other tests show the cancer has spread.
1 – author unattributed, Your Eyes: Your Health. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/your-eyes-a-window-to-your-health/
2 – Elizabeth Shimer Bowers, Everyday Health. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-disease/symptoms/can-crohns-disease-affect-your-eyes/