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Having an eye exam, we all know, is important for checking that our eyes are healthy and that we’re able to see well, but did you know that an eye test can also discover a number of problems that aren’t related to your sight?

Here are some of the unexpected illnesses that all good optometrists should be able to see when they look into your eyes:


Optometrists might be more used to diagnosing short-sightedness or cataracts, but right now, it is not at all unusual for them to notice a tell-tale sign of Type 2 diabetes when they look into their patients’ eyes, sending many a shocked patient off to their doctor for follow-up. What’s the tell-tale sign? Leaking blood vessels in the eyes, which is left untreated, could lead to diabetic retinopathy and eventually blindness! Safe to say, if your optometrist tells you to get tested for diabetes, you should do it! There’s no need to go blind, and it’s unlikely you will if you are treated quickly.

High Blood Pressure

High blood affects a staggering 16 million people in the United Kingdom alone. It often has few symptoms., but when left untreated can lead to heart disease, stroke, and even dementia. Luckily, it can be detected in the eye if it isn’t detected in the body, and that’s one good reason why you should have regular eye exams even if you think your eye health is good!

Optometrists are able to detect high blood pressure because the condition causes blood to pass through vessels in the eye more forcefully than they otherwise might, and this can cause a condition known as hypertensive retinopathy.

High Cholesterol/ Heart Problems

If you have excessive levels of cholesterol in your body, it can cause what looks like deposits in the blood vessels that are located at the back of the eye, and this is something that a good eye doctor can easily pick up. It will normally present itself in changing patterns of arteries and veins behind the eye, and when it is spotted, you should have your heart and cholesterol levels checked out.


Arthritis can be a very painful and frustrating condition whereby your joints become inflamed, and your autoimmune system starts to work against you. You might think this has little relation to the eye, but actually, inflammation in the eye can be a symptom of arthritis which if you have any other issues, should certainly be taken seriously and investigated further.


Alzheimer’s disease cannot yet be detected by an eye test, but it is worth mentioning here because researchers believe that they are close to developing a computer program that could look at your eyes and detect the disease in its early stages. If this happens and eye tests are used for this purpose, it is likely we will be able to catch many more cases much earlier than before.

So, next time you’re wondering whether to put off your eye exam because you can see just fine, please don’t. You never know what other issues might come up!

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2 comments on “Unexpected Illnesses that Can be Spotted in the Eyes”

  1. Thank you. Indeed all of these things can and should be part of any eye exam, and especially routine exams , where they receive an early diagnosis. The Indiana University School of Optometry is well along in development of an application to determine effects of concussion.
    The first step in the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is most often taken in the optometrist’s office when we present with early vision issues.
    There is more than just 1 or 2! And by the way, I like your picture of an old fashioned trial frame. Thank you for sharing.

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