Many people would not expect optometrists to be at the forefront of the battle against such serious health conditions as diabetes and cancer, but the eyes can provide crucial information about your overall health.

Routine examination with an unexpected result

Dr. Alan Ulsifer, optometrist and CEO of FYidoctors, recalls an eye examination that he performed on a young girl. During the routine check-up, Dr. Ulsifer discovered a swelling of her optic nerve. Further testing revealed a tumour on her pituitary gland. Thanks to early detection, doctors were able to successfully remove the tumour and the girl made a complete recovery.

“I think that if you spoke to any optometrist, they will have had many similar experiences,” says Dr. Ulsifer.

No pain, no symptoms

The retina, a thin tissue lining the back surface of the eye, has no pain receptors and so, all too often, the first sign that something is amiss is when a patient perceives a denigration of vision. Vision loss can occur so gradually that when the impairment is finally noted, it is often too late for effective treatment.

“It’s unfortunate that someone who needs immediate medical treatment may not visit an optometrist for a long time.”

Many individuals may feel no pain and retain up to 20/20 vision whilst developing serious health conditions such as advanced glaucoma, a disease that, if left untreated, can cause vision loss or blindness.

“As an optometrist, it’s very frustrating to know that there are so many people who assume that the way they’re functioning today is maximized,” says Dr. Ulsifer. “A lot of unfortunate situations arise because people make assumptions about their vision.”

A window to overall health

The eye is a unique organ and offers an excellent window into your health. It is the only part of the body where doctors can examine an individual’s vasculature and nerve tissue without performing a biopsy or other invasive procedure. Many conditions such as diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis and hypertension display early signs in the eyes. “It’s a very unique organ and we’re in a very unique position as optometrists to be able to assess overall health,” says Dr. Ulsifer.

Early detection and diagnosis of any serious health condition is crucial in the short- and long-term well-being of patients. Major advancements in eye care technology is allowing doctors to diagnose and treat major health conditions earlier and more effectively.

Booking an eye examination could save your life or the life of a loved one. Eye experts recommend that you get your eyes tested at least every two years while children, seniors and those with known visual impairments should be examined at least once a year.

“It’s unfortunate that someone who needs immediate medical treatment may not visit an optometrist for a long time,” says Dr. Ulsifer. “We have an opportunity to help people live well, see well and enjoy their lives.”