30.03.2012

Eye exams "benefit your overall health"

Eye exams "benefit your overall health"

By Alexa Kaczka

Most people, at some point, have had their vision called into question, whether it be while trying to read a shop sign down the road, looking at the instructions for something or simply speaking to somebody across the room, but the general response is to deny that their is anything wrong with their eyesight.

Although this may be more top do with pride than anything else, and therefore understandable, people who realise there is something wrong with their vision but do nothing about it may actually be putting more at risk then their eyesight.

Dr James Lombardo, an optometrist at Burlington's Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, told the Burlington Union that many people think that eye problems are only limited to that area of the body and can easily be remedied by contact lenses, glasses or laser eye surgery.

While this is certainly true for many conditions, and these vision correction methods can be extremely effective, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

As he notes: "Many people believe that an eye exam is limited to evaluating your eyesight - how well you can see and whether you need glasses or contact lenses - and identifying diseases specific to the eye."

The reality, the expert pointed out, is that eye exams are important not only for detecting vision problems - many of which manifest without noticeable symptoms - but also for a person's overall health.

Dr Lombardo explained that an eye exam can detect a number of serious medical conditions, ranging from eye problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts, to more wide-ranging problems such as diabetes.

He explained that glaucoma is a disease that severely damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries visual images to the brain, with the main issue being that the patient can be unaware that they have glaucoma until it is too late.

As there is little or no pain associated with most forms of glaucoma, and vision is not blurry in the earlier stages of the disease, it is known to many in the profession as the silent thief of sight, as it leads to total blindness if not caught early.

A solution to the quandary of how to stifle the development of the condition is to have regular eye exams that can identify it in its initial stages, the expert explained – something that can also help to catch cataracts, another major cause of vision loss.

Cataracts cloud the lens inside the eye and, although early clouding can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, surgery is eventually needed to remove the affected lens and replace it with a plastic implant.

But catching these eye problems is not the only benefit of eye exams, as Dr Lombardo told the news source: "A comprehensive eye exam done by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can also identify early signs of some health conditions.

"By looking at the retina, its blood vessels, and other parts of the eye, your eye doctor may be able to detect if you are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other health problems."

Furthermore, an annual eye exam can have untold benefits for people living diabetes, as damage to the blood vessels in the eyes can cause vision loss and is a leading cause of blindness – something known as diabetic retinopathy.

When this is found early, laser treatment can help people to maintain their vision, which highlights how vital regular examination is, the specialist noted.

"Caring for your eyes should always be a part of your regular healthcare routine, as they are a part of your overall health. A regular, comprehensive eye exam is important to detect the early stages of vision problems and a variety of other health issues," Dr Lombardo concluded.

by Emily Tait


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