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New Study Shows How Your Eyes Shed Light on Your Health

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It's been said that your eyes are the window to your soul. Well, research is showing that your eyes are a window to a lot more than your thoughts and emotions; it can be an indicator of your overall health.  A study by UnitedHealthcare entitled, “Impact of Eye Exams in Identifying Chronic Conditions” showed that through comprehensive eye exams, eye care practitioners can identify some chronic diseases and conditions to help with early diagnosis, an earlier start of treatment and better disease management and prognosis.  

What makes the eye so special in this regard is that it is the only organ through which you can see nerves and blood vessels without an invasive procedure or surgery. Aside from known eye diseases, many other conditions have symptoms that manifest in your eyes. Sometimes an eye exam can reveal damage caused by chronic conditions and disease in other parts of your body, before you even begin to notice symptoms. For many chronic conditions and diseases, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome, and these discoveries through an eye exam can often detect the early stages of disease.

According to the study, eye doctors identified 15% of participants with diabetes and multiple sclerosis, in addition to a number of other chronic conditions including high cholesterol, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and Graves disease. An eye exam can also detect neurological, thyroid and autoimmune diseases.

Let’s have a look at some of these conditions individually and how an eye exam by an experienced eye doctor can detect a problem from the window of the eye:

Diabetes: Diabetes can cause an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels inside the eyes become prone to leaking fluid and small amounts of blood onto the retina. Retinal vascular changes and blood vessel hemorrhaging areindicators that diabetes is present and may be affecting other sensitive organs and tissues like the kidney.

Hypertension / high blood pressure: High intraocular pressure readings obtained from measuring the pressure inside your eye are usually associated with glaucoma, but they can also indicate high blood pressure.

High cholesterol: High cholesterol puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes. Rarely, it can present in the eye by a white painless ring around the outer edge of the cornea, called an arcus, which is a buildup of fat particles (not to be confused with an arcus senilis , which affects the elderly and is not necessarily associated with cholesterol). Occasionally, a dilated eye exam can detect signs of high cholesterol. In severe cases, retinal vein occlusion can develop which means the blood flowing to and from your eye is blocked, which may be related to a clot that leads to sudden vision loss.

Neurological issues: Although your eye can twitch form time to time, a persistent eye twitch combined with a twitch on the side of your mouth and/or other symptoms might indicate that a neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's is developing. Most eye twitches have benign causes like fatigue, stress, or caffeine.

Thyroid disease: Your thyroid gland regulates your body's metabolism. A classic sign of thyroid disease is a bulging eyeball, because an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause swelling of the soft tissues within the eye socket. Since thyroid hormones are involved in hair production, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to hair loss in the outer part of the eyebrow.

Autoimmune disease: Certain autoimmune diseases can affect the eyes, including HIV, Graves Disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis.  

These are only some of the diseases that present symptoms which manifest in your eyes, but this sample does illustrate how enlightening a simple eye exam can be. Eye exams are not only to make sure your vision is up to par. Have your eyes checked regularly to ensure you are keeping your eye health and overall health in check. 

PROTECTING OUR COMMUNITY

We have been working very hard to prepare to re-open for normal "routine" preventive eye care, taking every precaution to ensure the safety of everyone involved. We are pleased to announce as of Monday May 18th we'll be seeing patients for all types of eye care, including routine annual eye exams.

But, things will be very different than they were prior to the pandemic.

1. Our front door will be locked at all times. We will be allowing only 1 person at a time in the office and by appointment only, so please enter alone, or with no more than l other person accompanying you. Others may wait in the car.

2. Masks will be required for both patients and us while in our office.

3. Upon entering, we will be checking your temperature and screen you for COVID symptoms or possible exposure. If your temperature is 100 F or higher, or you have symptoms or may have recently been exposed to COVID, we will reschedule you.

4. We will need you to respect the 6 feet personal distancing while outside the exam room

5. We will have you wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer when you enter. We will be using hand washing and hand sanitizer constantly and will be disinfecting everything you and we touch. Please don't touch anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

6. For frame selection or picking out glasses, please let us help you, and don't just browse and try on frames by yourself. We have to disinfect the frames every time they are touched or worn, and we need to know which frames need to be disinfected.

We are doing all these things to protect you and all of our other patients as best we can. We will need and depend on your cooperation on this during this very difficult time. Doing so will protect your fellow patients-many of whom are at extremely high risk if they contract COVID - and to protect us. All healthcare providers are putting themselves in harm's way every day during this pandemic - the more we all cooperate and take appropriate precautions, the better off we all will be.

We are all in this together. Thank you for your patience, understanding, and cooperation.

Please stay safe.

Dr. Jim Hutchins and staff