They say, “Eyes aren’t just the window to your soul — they also offer a glimpse into your overall health” and fitness experts root for the same as our eyes are the first indicator of whether we are suffering from diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidaemia , immunological diseases and even cancer. In an interview with HT Lifestyle ahead of World Health Day this April 7, Dr Rwituja Thomas Grover, Consultant- Ophthalmologist at New Delhi’s Vision Eye Centre, encouraged one to not ignore his/her routine eye check-up with an ophthalmologist because it is far more than just checking the vision.
According to her, with regular eye examinations, early detection and treatment of a number of serious health conditions are possible. She listed how eight diseases that can be diagnosed at its initial phase through screening or routine eye exams:
1. Diabetes – If you have blurry vision that is sudden or insidious in onset, this could be an early sign of diabetes – both type 1 and type 2. If the condition isn’t tackled at its initial stages, then it could lead to onset or worsening of diabetic retinopathy. This condition affects the capillaries in the retina and is one of the leading causes of permanent blindness across the world. It is important that one’s sugars and other parameters are brought into control after this diagnosis.
2. Hypertension – This can cause changes in the retina of the eye and lead to decreased vision in severe cases. Vision loss can be gradual or sudden due to bleeding in the eye. It is important to get the blood pressure under control to prevent complications in organs such as the eye and kidney. If you are under the age group of 40, it’s essential to get your blood pressure checked yearly to aid in early detection.
3. Autoimmune disease- If your eyes often turn very dry (with or without dryness of the mouth), this is an initial sign that you are suffering from an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease or ocular cicatricial pemphigoid. When you are suffering from autoimmune diseases that may be causing joint pain, back pain, issues in urination or bowel issues, it affects the glands that produce tears, causing aqueous deficiency dry eye. It is treated mainly by treating the underlying systemic issue and supplementing the tears with drops and gels.
4. Stroke – If you suffer from transient loss of vision or complete loss of vision in an eye, it can be an indicator of ischemic changes in the brain or blockage in an artery of the eye (central retinal artery occlusion). In this scenario, it is important to assess the systemic parameters such as lipids, sugars, blood pressure and cardiac evaluation. A neurologist and cardiologist are consulted to determine the site and cause to help in proper treatment and prevent future events.
5. Multiple sclerosis – If you suffer from seeing black/blind spots, sudden temporary loss of vision or eye pain, these can be indicators of a systemic condition called multiple sclerosis. This is treated by a neurologist and requires blood tests and MRI of the brain and spine to determine the type and decide on the treatment.
6. Cancer – Cancers of the body can occasionally be picked up by symptoms in the eye such as decreased vision, floaters and bulging of the eyeball. Tumors that are metastatic may spread from other affected organs in the body to the orbit (behind the eyeball) causing bulging. They can spread inside the eye as well, leading to retinal detachments and causing drop in the vision. Tumors can occur first in the eye as well, such as melanomas, which can be on the surface or inside the eyeball. Once these are detected, patients are referred to oncologists to rule out spread within the body. Thus, cancers can spread from other areas to the eye or from the eye to other areas, hence a screening is of utmost importance if one is suffering from any of the above symptoms.
7. Liver – If your sclera (the white of the eye) is turning yellowish (jaundice) then it indicates that you’re suffering from some underlying liver-related issues. This condition is caused by high levels of bilirubin, something which our liver makes more if it’s inflamed or damaged.
8. Lack of sleep – Lack of sleep can lead to twitching of the eyelids. This is also induced by excess intake of caffeine or stress. This is a temporary phenomenon which can be treated by correcting the sleep cycle and reducing consumption of tea and coffee. Patients are often advised breathing exercises and yoga to aid in improvement. If this condition persists for long, they are sometimes advised Botulinum toxin injections.