There's a saying that your eyes are the windows to your soul. While that may be harder to prove, your eyes are actually a window to your body that doctors use to get an idea of your overall health.
The eyes are the only place in the body where one can directly visualize blood vessels and nerves without making any incisions. This provides lots of important information about your health. Much of this can be seen in the retina, located on the inside surface at the back of the eye.
When doctors use dilating eye-drops to enlarge your pupils, they are not only checking for eye-specific diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal detachments – they are also looking for indicators of medical conditions that can present in your eyes. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, and even some types of brain tumours. Sometimes, diabetic retinopathy (DR), a manifestation of poorly controlled diabetes in the eyes, can be detected before a patient even knows that they have diabetes.
In DR, blood vessels in the retina bleed, and in severe cases, abnormal, weaker blood vessels grow inside the eye. This can eventually lead to complications like retinal detachments, which can cause permanent blindness. Additionally, if there is bleeding inside your eyes from diabetes, it is likely that the disease is affecting other parts of your body, like the kidneys, as well.
With your eyes containing so many valuable clues about your body, it is important to see your eye doctor for routine examinations. This includes not only an update of your eyewear prescription, but also the eye health exam. Early forms of many diseases mentioned above may not be obvious, and someone who has it may still have great vision. If signs of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes are found, your optometrist can work together with ophthalmologists, family doctors, and other medical specialists to better manage your blood pressure and sugar levels, in order to best take care of both your eye and overall health.