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What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?

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A happy smiling senior man having his eyes tested for diseases during a comprehensive eye exam.

Booking a comprehensive eye exam is more than just getting an updated prescription or trying out a new style—though you can do that, too! An eye exam lets a trained eye care professional examine your eyes in-depth and look for all kinds of potential problems. Many different eye diseases can develop subtly, and without an experienced pair of eyes, they can be difficult to catch.

7 diseases that can be detected during an eye exam include:

  1. Dry eye
  2. Diabetes
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Glaucoma
  5. Sjogren’s syndrome
  6. Rheumatoid arthritis
  7. Tumours

This is why regular eye exams are so important. You should visit your optometrist at least once a year; this way, you can stay on top of your eyes and vision!

1. Dry Eye

Burning, scratching, irritating sensations in the eye—if these sound familiar to you, you likely have experienced dry eye before.

This is an extremely common eye condition that develops due to one of two reasons. Either:

  • The eyes are incapable of producing enough tears, or
  • The tears being produced cannot properly protect the eye.

Dry eye often develops due to environmental factors, medication, or other underlying conditions. This condition is easily recognizable by visible redness and inflammation throughout the eyes. Fortunately, dry eye is also highly treatable through dry eye therapy.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high blood sugar levels. However, the condition is not just about how you process sugar; it affects blood vessels throughout the body, and the eyes are no exception.

One complication of diabetes is an eye condition called diabetic retinopathy, where the blood vessels at the back of the eye become damaged due to elevated blood sugar levels. This can quickly lead to permanent vision loss.

This is only one reason why it is so essential to regularly schedule diabetic eye exams. This way, your optometrist can monitor your retinal health and help catch this condition long before it becomes a serious problem.

3. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can have several adverse effects on your body—including your eyes. This can damage the blood vessels in the retina, causing bleeding and vision loss.

Hypertension also increases the risk of developing other eye conditions, which can quickly lead to permanent damage to your eyes and vision. During an eye exam, your optometrist can examine the retina to check the blood vessels, which can help determine whether or not your vision is at risk.

4. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can eventually damage the optic nerve, often due to high intraocular pressure. This is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide.

There are several types of glaucoma:

  • Open-angle glaucoma: The most common form. It develops slowly and often has no symptoms until significant vision loss occurs.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma: A less common form that can occur suddenly. This is a medical emergency that quickly causes severe eye pain, nausea, and sudden vision loss
  • Normal-tension glaucoma: This occurs despite normal eye pressure levels. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it still leads to a damaged optic nerve.
  • Congenital glaucoma: A rare form present at birth, caused by abnormal development of the eye’s drainage system.

However, glaucoma is complicated. Most types often develop slowly with no obvious symptoms, slowly putting more and more pressure on the optic nerve. Eventually, the damage leads to the loss of peripheral vision, leading to gradual—and permanent—vision loss.

During an eye exam, your optometrist can measure your intraocular pressure to determine if you are at risk of developing glaucoma. With this condition, early intervention is key to preserving your vision.

5. Sjogren’s Syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the body’s moisture-producing glands—like those in and around the eye. This quickly leads to dry eyes, inflammation, irritation, and more.

When it comes to the eyes, Sjogren’s syndrome can cause persistent irritation, a gritty feeling, and even damage to the surface of the eyes. During an eye exam, your optometrist can measure your eyes’ moisture levels, check the balance of your tear film, and determine whether or not you may be dealing with Sjogren’s syndrome.

6. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is another autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. The resulting inflammation can affect several parts of the body—including the eyes.

This condition often leads to scleritis, which occurs when the white outer layer of the eye becomes inflamed. This can cause redness, pain, and blurred vision, and it can quickly lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.

During an eye exam, your optometrist will check for signs of scleritis or other conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Early detection and treatment can help prevent serious complications.

A happy smiling senior man having his eyes tested for diseases during a comprehensive eye exam.

7. Tumours

During an eye exam, your optometrist may be able to detect a tumour in, around, or even behind the eye. These can include both malignant (cancerous) and benign (not cancerous) tumours and may be overlooked during other types of exams or checkups.

Sometimes, a brain tumour can showcase itself by causing:

  • Abnormal eye movement
  • Double vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain

Your optometrist may identify any of these symptoms during an exam and can refer you for further testing. However, it is important to note that while it is possible to detect a brain tumour, your optometrist cannot always notice these. If you have a history of brain tumours in your family, you should visit a specialist for more advanced diagnostic testing.

Book Your Next Eye Exam Today

Regular eye exams aren’t just about clear vision. They act as a critical player in maintaining your overall health. Here at MB Optometry, our optometrists are trained to diagnose all kinds of potential conditions. Book your next eye exam with us today, and take the first step towards safeguarding your health!

Written by Dr. Melissa Bussey

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