Several chronic health conditions can be detected during a regular eye examination.

Your eyes and body are connected in many ways. There are several chronic conditions that impact your overall health, as well as your vision, that can easily be detected during a regular eye exam.

It’s not the news you want to break to someone during an exam that you may have diabetes. And many times, patients are unaware that optometrists are looking for things of that nature during a routine exam.

Most patients are aware of these pre-existing medical conditions. But for those who aren’t, a note or checklist is provided to alert their primary care physician of what we’ve discovered during the exam. The biggest key to this early detection is creating awareness in the patient and collaborating with other health care professionals for treatment.

Diabetes is detected in exams through leakage in the tiny vessels in the retina or, in some cases, if the patient has been experiencing fluctuation in their vision. In cases of multiple sclerosis, the optic nerve tells you everything you need to know. If it shows thinning, then there’s a cause for alarm. An MRI is suggested to get a more detailed look and pick up on other indications of the disease.

Certain professions, like dentists, have done a great job of raising awareness about prevention and encouraging those twice-a-year checkups vision professionals haven’t done as good a job in relaying the importance of annual exams to our patients and getting them to create that habit. We need to get eye exams on people’s radars and help them understand were not just checking your optical health, and that they’re getting a more tangible experience.

Our Sams Club Optical Centers in Fridley and St. Louis Park, Minnesota are equipped with a retinal camera; I love showing members what were looking for, and they love being able to see exactly what were talking about. It creates another level of awareness that goes a long way toward treating and preventing these diseases.

More and more people are gaining an understanding of the positives of prevention. There are good supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin, perfectly formulated for eye health. I also recommend eating a healthy diet consisting of whole grains and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.

In the end, it may not be the news they were expecting, but patients always seem to truly appreciate that were looking out for them.

What we’re looking for

Here are a few of the common health problems that can be detected during a regular eye exam:

Vitamin A deficiency

Having a well-balanced diet helps eliminate this problem that can be detected by checking the surface of your eye. Also, tell your optometrist if you’re having trouble seeing at night.


Bloody or yellowish leaks in the small capillaries in the retina are an indicator of diabetes or possibly diabetic retinopathy.

Multiple sclerosis

Anomalies or swelling in the retina and optic nerve, sometimes leading to eye tics, can be an early sign of multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

High cholesterol

A yellow ring around the cornea or plaques in the blood vessels of the retina are indicators of elevated cholesterol.


Blood vessels in the eye that show bends, kinks or tears may be an indication of high blood pressure.