It’s been said the eyes are windows to the soul. Maybe so, but they can also give your doctor a view of other things going on with your health. While vision problems are annoying, they can also be a sign of something more serious. Annual eye exams are important as we age and earlier for patients at risk for certain conditions. Read on to find out six reasons why vision health matters.
1. Vision problems can signal other health problems. Aging can affect vision making it harder to see up close or far away but so can conditions like hypertension and diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness. Blurred vision and night blindness (difficulty seeing in the dark) could mean your blood sugar levels are too high.
2. Vision problems can shorten your life span. If you can’t complete daily tasks like grocery shopping or doing housework, your ability to live independently as measured by the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL)decreases. A study found that those with difficulty had a 21 percent higher mortality rate.
3. A vision test can reveal being at-risk for a stroke. An exam can photograph the back of the eye to help determine if a high blood pressure patient is prone to stroke. Other eye exams can detect sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis, and high cholesterol.
4. Vision loss can lead to depression. A 2013 study shows that adults with vision loss have a 90 percent greater chance of developing depression. More than 10 percent reported symptoms of major depression.
5. Progressive eye diseases can lead to permanent vision loss. Several serious eye conditions show no symptoms in the early stages. An eye exam can detect cataracts and monitor them for possible surgery. Other diseases the eye doctor can look for are glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. This is why everyone over 60 should have an annual eye exam.
6. Field vision problems cause falls. If you lose visual field function, you are at a greater risk of falling. This is something to look out for with age. Less field of vision means losing the ability to see objects using peripheral vision while looking at one central object. This loss interferes with your balance making a fall more likely.
Eye exams are important but don’t leave your eye care entirely up to the eye doctor.
You can help prevent eye diseases. Always wear sunglasses in bright sunlight. UV rays can lead to glaucoma and macular degeneration. Prevent vision problems by taking frequent computer screen breaks, getting adequate sleep, and eating a healthy diet. People over age 18 should have periodic eye exams, especially if noticing any changes in vision. Anyone over 60, regardless of problems, should visit the eye doctor every year.