At our Venice ophthalmology clinic, patients are often referred to us by physicians treating them for other conditions. For these patients, complications from their health conditions can cause issues with their sight. With these referrals, the treatment we provide can be of huge benefit to their overall quality of life.
In other cases, patients will present to us of their own accord for a routine eye exam. Thanks to our expert retina specialists, these patients can sometimes find out that issues they’ve been experiencing with their eyesight might actually be related to other health problems.
As an organ, your eyes are an integral part of your overall health. This is why an ophthalmologist can sometimes spot signs of conditions that other doctors are likely to miss.
So, what are some examples of this?
Symptoms of health issues ophthalmologists can help with
1. Diabetes can significantly impact your vision
Many sufferers of diabetes will already be aware that their vision can be impacted by diabetes. This is because people with diabetes have a 25 times higher risk of blindness than people without diabetes.
However, other people sometimes present to their eye doctor or retina specialist without even realizing that they are experiencing symptoms of the disease. During an eye exam, your eye doctor might ask questions relating to your general health if they notice something is amiss with your retina or general vision.
For example, if during an eye exam your retina specialist notices leaking yellow fluid coming from tiny blood vessels in your retina, they’re likely to investigate the possibility of diabetic retinopathy.
Even though this won’t always be the cause of this fluid leaking around your retina, your ophthalmologist will still want to rule it out.
2. Crohn’s disease and other inflammatory bowel conditions can also affect your eyes
Did you know that many people who suffer from stomach conditions also suffer from eye conditions? For example, Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), can sometimes cause uveitis.
Simply put, uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. Where Crohn’s disease is concerned, there’s reason to believe that problems with your vision are related to an autoimmune response by your body when dealing with toxins and proteins in your bloodstream.
People with stomach conditions or Crohn’s disease also commonly report issues with glare. This is because those with inflammatory conditions can often be more sensitive to light. For this reason, these people should always be extra vigilant about UV rays and sunlight.
While a retina specialist won’t be able to treat other symptoms of Crohn’s disease, they’ll certainly be able to relieve any discomfort it’s causing to your sight.
3. Ophthalmologists can recognize overexposure to the sun
Following on from the previous point, protecting your eyes from the sun is something we should all do, but sometimes still neglect.
Most people know that sun damage to your skin can lead to the development of skin cancer and other dangerous skin-related conditions. What people sometimes overlook is the damage that UV rays can also cause to your eyes.
At your ophthalmologist appointment, your physician might ask if you regularly wear UV protection on your eyes (such as high-quality sunglasses or skin protection). This is because your eye doctor might want to establish if the structure of your eye is likely to have been affected by sun damage.
Because the skin on your eyelid is the thinnest on your whole body, the protection it provides for your eye and retina is minimal when it comes to UV rays. This is why it’s crucial to add additional protection wherever possible.
Sun damage can lead to:
It can also accelerate the speed at which these conditions develop, so it’s always recommended that you:
- Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection
- Wear hats that shade your eye area if sitting in the sun
- Use facial cream daily that contains a high SPF (even on overcast days!)
- Ensure you never let your eyelids get sunburnt
If you have already experienced issues with skin conditions caused by the sun (e.g., skin cancer), mention this to your ophthalmologist and they’ll be able to fully assess the condition of your eyes.
4. Your ophthalmologist might be able to spot early signs of heart disease
Ophthalmologists are highly skilled at what they do. This is mostly because they are trained from both a medical and surgical standpoint. This means that as well as being able to cater fully to your needs in terms of your vision, they’ll also be aware of some deep-rooted connections between your eyes and other organs in your body.
Upon visiting a retina specialist, many people are surprised to be asked questions about if they’ve ever been diagnosed with a heart condition. Perhaps you’ll even be asked if you’ve been experiencing any other symptoms that might be of note.
This is because during an eye exam using a non-invasive tool known as an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), your eye doctor can detect tiny marks left behind your eye as a result of an eye stroke.
Even though these marks can also be left due to less severe reasons, your retina specialist will always seek to investigate these marks as soon as possible.
Eye strokes occur when the eye is lacking the correct level of blood flow and oxygen, so if your ophthalmologist notices anything untoward, they’ll do their best to guide you on the next steps in getting further treatment.
5. Ophthalmologists can even specialize in treating thyroid patients
Did you know that there are some ophthalmologists who specialize in treating patients with conditions such as thyroid?
Even though all experienced ophthalmologists should be able to cater for the needs of these patients, for some eye doctors, they get enough business out of just dealing with niche conditions. While this is great on one hand, it’s also quite scary to think that this level of people are presenting with eye issues caused by other health concerns.
Still, this is exactly why ophthalmologists train for an average of 12 years. As ophthalmologists and retina specialists, we’re trained to relieve discomfort in any way they can. If your condition relates in any way to the eye — we’ll be able to help.
If you suffer from hyperthyroidism, your ophthalmologist might notice that your eyeballs are protruding. It can also be the case that your eyelids might retract. These symptoms won’t always be connected to hyperthyroidism, but further medical investigation might be required.
Things to keep in mind:
There are several more health conditions that an ophthalmologist might be able to detect from an eye exam or imaging test. If your retina specialist does suggest that you visit another doctor to investigate a symptom that has been detected, it’s important to:
- Not panic (it’s our job to investigate even the smallest symptom)
- Attend the specialist that your ophthalmologist suggests
- Keep up with routine health checks (of all kinds!)
- Keep your ophthalmologist updated on any developments with your health
As health care providers, we like to take every precaution possible to ensure that your overall health is cared for. Sometimes, this will involve referring you to other specialists who can put your mind at ease.
In order to keep on top of your health, we suggest scheduling regular appointments with your local ophthalmology practice.
If you are based in the Venice, Englewood, or North Port areas of Southwest Florida, you can contact us to schedule your first appointment. We’re currently taking on new patients and would be delighted to hear from you!
Your vision will always be our priority.