posted by Dr. Mark Ruchman, Chief Medical Officer, Versant Health
on February 26, 2020
New Year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition, with getting healthy and losing weight topping many lists. Another less honored tradition is realizing, at some point in February, that you haven’t actually taken action on any of your resolutions.
I see that often with my own eye care patients, particularly when it comes to getting healthy. One of the reasons is that “getting healthy” is such a big concept, many people don’t know where to start.
Here is a tip that might help: A routine eye exam is one of the least expensive, most effective, and least invasive screening methods available for taking steps toward getting healthy. And an eye exam can offer insight to many of the medical conditions afflicting Americans today.
While most people recognize the importance of a routine annual physical examination to detect conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer risk, far fewer appreciate that an annual eye exam can often detect each of these conditions and more.
When a patient receives an eye exam, the eye care professional gets a non-invasive look inside the body, giving the eye care provider a chance to detect many diseases long before symptoms appear. Such early diagnosis is a vital component of effective prevention and treatment. This leads to improved quality of life for patients and much lower costs for health insurance providers.
In addition to detecting blinding conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy, an eye exam may also detect many systemic medical conditions, including:
An eye exam may also detect several different forms of cancer, including:
One study found that a routine eye exam found signs of chronic disease long before any other health professional had noted the condition. Specifically, the eye doctor found signs of high cholesterol 65% of the time, high blood pressure 30% of the time, and diabetes 20% of the time.
The secret lies in the exam itself. When an eye doctor performs an exam, she or he not only tests visual acuity, eye movement, and side vision, but also eye pressure, the topography of the eye, and the condition of the retina and optic nerve. In doing so, the eye care professional can see characteristic signs of damage to the retinal blood vessels that reflect system-wide abnormalities affecting the brain, heart, and more.
Eye exams help to maintain good vision while also providing early detection for a wide range of systemic diseases. Whatever your 2020 New Year’s resolutions, what better time that right now – 2020 – to take advantage of routine and regular eye care as an easy step toward good vision and whole body health for you and your family.