Routine eye test: how important to our general health?

The eye is the window through which we can often see illness in remote part of the body. As an eye doctor, I can look into your eyes and see into your world, the physical world of your health. The eye, we know, is a mirror of general health. The health of the eye is profoundly interrelated to the health of the body. It is often impossible to treat the eye disease without healing the rest of the body and its underlying disharmony as well.

A lot of people are ignorant of the intimate connection of our eye to the body (system)

I have often regarded the eye and the body as a monitor and Central Processing Unit (CPU). The reveals the information processed by the CPU. But If the CPU malfunctions the monitor is there to reveal it. The eye is just like the monitor and body, the CPU. The eye is the monitor that exposes what is actually going on in our body.

If a child is sick, the parent could easily notice this by the child’s look. When someone is emotional, the eye reveals it. When we are annoyed, the pupils of the eye become constricted (smaller than normal) but when we are happy or amorous, the pupil dilates (bigger than normal). All these emotional feelings occur in our body but the eye mirrors these feelings. So are diseases within our body.

Many conditions can be first diagnosed by looking in the eye. Hypertension, diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis (Thyroid condition as in Grave’s disease), liver diseases, hardening of arteries, heart diseases, brain tumour etc. can often be detected in the eye before they are apparent anywhere else. Even, the dreaded killer disease, AIDS, has its ocular (eye) manifestation. The yellowing jaundice of the white of the eye is a well known indication of serious liver diseases like Hepatitis or Cirrhosis.

When a professionally competent eye specialist takes a peep into your eye, he is equally peeping into your body too.

Remember well that your symptom does not always originate where you feel it most. Symptoms are like the leaves of a tree; the root is elsewhere.

Infact, blurred vision may be the first symptom of diabetes in an undiagnosed individual. Many such individuals are unaware they have diabetes until they go for eye examination and they are told. One of the notable symptoms of diabetes is visual disturbance. Visual disturbance can result from increase sugar in the fluid areas of the eye.

A sudden onset of shortsightedness in an adult (especially above 40 yrs) for instance can be a symptom of diabetes. Blindness is largely preventable if diabetes is detected very early and there is careful follow up. Routine eye check up can help uncover diabetes.

Eye problems that require an early detection for good prognosis

Some eye problems need to be diagnosed at very stage. Eye problems like Chronic glaucoma, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Squint in children, Macular degeneration etc. required early detection for treatment to be effective. Advanced stage of these eye conditions is hopeless and irreparable eye damages usually occur.

Glaucoma is the most dreadful eye disease. It is a complex situation mostly caused by increase in eye pressure. Chronic glaucoma is particular insidious, generally producing no symptoms in its early stage. The majority of chronic glaucoma patients don’t experience pain and red eye. But the damage done by glaucoma is irreversible. But early detection during routine eye test can save a sight.

Quick intervention, at an early age, in cases like squint (crossed eyes) and high refractive errors in children could help save their sight.

Eye symptoms that have systemic (body) origin

  1.  Diabetes

The eye disease that develops in diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy. It is caused by changes in the cells that line blood vessels of the eyeball. These cells are called mural cells. Normally mural cells are leakproof (i.e. it does not allow blood to leak out of the blood vessels of the eye). But in diabetes, these mural cells are weakened and they allow blood to leak into the eye causing tiny heamorrhages (blood) and exudates (yellowish spots) in the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy (background).

Sometimes, there can be blockage of the small vessels of the eye by sugar pellets in diabetes. If this occurs, the blood vessel may not be able to carry enough oxygen to the eye. The body responds quickly to this by growing new tiny blood vessels at the site of blockage. These new blood vessels can cause loss of sight because they are fragile and can leak blood into the vitreous* (vitreous is the eye fluid). This stage of diabetes in the eye is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Other complications like cataract* and macular degeneration* can arise from diabetes.

Because the retina * (internal coat of the eye) is so metabolically active, disease like diabetes may be obvious in the eye before they produce symptoms elsewhere in the body. A competent eye doctor will pick this sign during routine eye test.

Diabetes is a common cause of intermittent blur vision. The patient has blur vision that last for a day or so. It is possible that your eye doctor may be the first to suspect or elicit diabetes in a patient. This is why routine eye checkup is important.

  1.  Hypertension

One of the commonest body diseases that has ocular (eye) manifestation is hypertension. The eye can manifest the symptoms of hypertension at a very early stage. Most sufferers of high Blood pressure are unaware until symptoms develop or damage occurs.

The primary response of the eye (retina) to systemic hypertension is narrowing of the retina arterioles (arteriole are tiny arteries). This narrowing can make the vessel to leak blood into the eye. In severe hypertension, it can lead to hard exudates* forming on around the macular (macular is sensitive spot on retina used for seeing). This formation of exudates on macular can lead to visual loss. The ocular (eye) manifestation of hypertension is called hypertensive retinopathy.

Routine eye test can help detect hypertension at a very early stage and both life and vision can be saves.

  1.   Brain Tumours

Brain tumours has its clinical manifestation in the eye. In some cases of brain tumours, an increasingly severe headaches and pains in the brain and eye might be the first symptoms. These pains might compel the patient to see the eye doctor first. An examination of the internal part of the eyeball might just reveal these symptoms of brain tumour. The eye during routine eye check up

might uncover brain tumour and make prompt referral

to a neurologist for further evaluations and commencement

of treatment.

  1. Grave’s Disease

Grave’s Disease is a disorder of the thyroid gland. This is another disease I n a remote part of the body that present with eye symptoms. Most of the symptoms of grave’s disease have ocular (eye) manifestation.

The list of systemic diseases that have eye manifestation is inexhaustible.


In my over twenty years of active practice, I have saved so many lives through mere looking into the eyes. I have made so many patients startled by telling them what was going on within their body by mere looking into their eyeballs. They were much more startled when such cases were confirmed by their medical doctors. Routine eye test ensures your eye’s continuing health. It helps to identify diseases in your eye. It can also help to identify disease in other parts of your body.

Now, that you have heard from the horse’s mouth, what are you waiting for. Schedule an eye exam today with your eye doctor and make it a regular routine.



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