Eye Exams Can Detect Health Problems in Seniors

January 12, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Did you know that the appearance of your eyes could reveal underlying health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and even certain types of cancer?

During your (or your loved one’s) next comprehensive eye exam, take notice of what exactly the ophthalmologist is testing for. Certain changes in the eyes may reflect changes in the vascular, nervous, and immune systems, making routine eye exams even more valuable to a senior’s health.

4 Health Problems Annual Eye Exams Can Detect in Seniors

1. Diabetes

Diabetes may cause changes in the blood vessels of the retina. This condition known as diabetic retinopathy is detected by looking closely at the eye for tiny hemorrhages and/or yellow deposits of blood fats. Often, individuals in the beginning stages of diabetic retinopathy may not notice any symptoms, and if left untreated, it can lead to significant vision loss and blindness. Early detection by an ophthalmologist will help to ensure proper treatment and prevent the condition from progressing.

2. Certain Types of Cancer

Routine eye exams allow doctors to detect noticeable changes in the structure of the eye. Enlarged blood vessels and lesions on the surface of the eyelids (basal cell carcinomas) are common indicators of certain cancers such as ocular melanoma and leukemia. If left untreated, these cancer cells can lead to serious health problems, including blindness and even death (if spread to the brain).

3. Autoimmune Diseases

There are many autoimmune diseases that affect the eye including lupus, multiple sclerosis, Grave’s disease (hyperthyroidism), and rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals with these conditions often experience bulging and reddening of the eyes, excessive tearing, and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, many of these conditions may worsen, causing a number of additional health concerns.

4. Cholesterol

During an eye exam, doctors often look for common signs of high cholesterol, such as a thin white or gray ring around the cornea or a build-up of plaque in the eye. Seniors with high cholesterol have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and retinal vein occlusion – a condition that blocks the blood flow to and from the eye. If left untreated, this can cause a break in the connection between the optic nerve and the brain, leading to vision loss.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care Services

The American Optometric Association recommends that individuals over the age of sixty receive annual eye examinations. For family caregivers juggling duties and home with a career, it’s often difficult to provide loved ones with the necessary level of care, including transportation to and from appointments. Care Options for Kids can help. We refer loving and competent caregivers to provide respite care to families. To learn more about our services or to speak with a home health care professional, contact us directly or request a free in-home assessment.

If you or an aging loved one are considering home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today (888) 592-5855.

CBS News: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/12-scary-things-your-eyes-say-about-your-health/
American Optometric Association: https://www.aoa.org/
National Eye Institute: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health