Not only are eyes the windows to the soul, but they can also offer a glimpse of a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Ophthalmologists like Dr. Mark Fleckner say getting regular eye exams is crucial as doctors can prevent and treat issues more effectively with early detection. In between eye exams, you should also take charge of your health by keeping an eye out for unusual changes which could be signs of serious trouble.
Dr. Mark Fleckner cites the American Academy of Ophthalmology which recommends people ages 18 to 60 have an eye exam every two years, at least, while people over age 60 should have them more frequently. People under age 60 with certain risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or genetic predisposition to eye ailments such as glaucoma, should also have eye exams more frequently.
During an eye exam, the doctor will of course check for problems within the eye itself, such as enlarged blood vessels, leaking, or vision changes, which may indicate issues such as glaucoma or retinal tears. However, the doctor may also be able to detect ailments such as irregular thyroid, high blood pressure, or diabetes, Dr. Mark Fleckner says.
Mark R Fleckner MD says to pay close attention and see your eye doctor right away if you experience the following symptoms:
Floaters: Floaters are fairly common and resemble gnats or web-like squiggles. While the occasional floater is normal, if yours don’t go away, this is cause for concern. They may also be accompanied by flashes of light. These symptoms may be a sign of posterior vitreous detachment or something more serious, like a retinal tear, which can be blinding if not treated.
Eye Pain: Eyes should never hurt, so this should always be taken seriously. It may be a sign of undiagnosed glaucoma, optic neuropathy, or inflammation. Or, it may be a symptom of injury from something such as extreme heat (ex., lighting fireworks or working with a blowtorch without safety gear). Don’t try a DIY method to relieve the pain, such as rinsing or drops, as this may exacerbate the condition.
Blurry Vision: Vision change is normal, particularly with age. However, sometimes a change in vision can be a symptom of a problem more serious than age-related vision decline. One of the most common issues, and the leading cause of blindness worldwide, is glaucoma.
Redness: Redness can be a sign of something benign like allergies or lack of sleep. While unhealthy, these factors are not a threat to your permanent vision and wellbeing. However, if you wear contacts and your eyes become red, watery, and painful, it may be a sign of infection. Stop wearing contacts immediately and see your doctor. Untreated, eye infections can cause permanent damage. One way to prevent this is to never, ever sleep in your contacts, Dr. Mark Fleckner says. Get in the habit of taking your contacts out at the end of the day and switching to glasses instead.
Double Vision: Double vision may be caused by having a few drinks, but if you’re experiencing it while sober, it may signal something more sinister. If your double vision is in one eye, it may indicate an issue with the cornea. In both eyes, it may signal a neurological issue. If you have double vision along with slurred speech or pain, it may be a sign of a stroke; go to the hospital immediately, says Dr. Mark Fleckner.