WINNIPEG – HEALTH – When you think about optometrists, you often think that they are doctors who only deal with vision problems. But the truth is that many optometrists are capable of diagnosing more than just visual problems. Many vision problems have their roots in underlying causes that can go undiagnosed if not caught early on. Things like high blood pressure and diabetes are conditions that show up in someone’s eyesight even if they are unaware of it.
Many patients have no idea that their overall health is related heavily to their visual health. Most view their eyes and vision as a separate entity instead of seeing their eye health as a part of the whole. Ocular health is highly correlated with someone’s overall health status, and sometimes it is those small visual differences that can signal major conditions surfacing elsewhere in the body.
It isn’t just hypertension that can affect someone’s eye health and be detected by the pressure behind the eye; things like diabetes and hypercholesterolemia are also detectable through an eye exam. According to the American Diabetes Association, as many as one in four Americans – which translates to over 30 million people – go undiagnosed. The American Heart Association released statistics that as many as 14 million Americans who have hypertension are completely unaware of their condition. Even those who have high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) are typically not diagnosed. As many as one-third of the estimated Americans with the condition are completely oblivious.
Not many health insurance policies cover eye care services, which means many Americans are opting not to have regular exams based on financial need. That translates to those with these looming conditions usually unaware of them until they become very serious and no longer able to be treated by early intervention. Things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be critical if not tackled. If they can be caught and treated early on, the patient generally has a much better outcome. That is why having a regular eye exam is so integral to a patient’s health status, but it is not something that many consider or even find beneficial.
Those who are most vulnerable are the aging population. As you get older, the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol increases. If the elderly population is underserved, the underlying conditions can remain unnoticed until they have disastrous consequences for the patient. Although it’s recommended to have your blood pressure taken, not many take the time to do so unless they visit the doctor for another reason, which is why so many times looming illness can go unchecked.
The best way to ensure a patient’s longevity is to look at all factors of their overall health. Often one of the most critical components – the eyes – are overlooked when they can provide a whole lot of information about a patient’s well-being and help to diagnose conditions early on, before they have the chance to get out of control and lead to exorbitant damage to a person’s health and cost for the medical field.
Although many Winnipeg optometrists push for allowing patients more access to vision care, it is a very low segment of the population who actually gets the care they need. As they are often only going when they are experiencing vision problems, or there is an accident related to a person’s eye, the many benefits associated with regular eye exams are completely negated.
Regular vision screening is not only important to look for aging-related damage such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other eye conditions; optometrists are also a great source for catching disease conditions early on that seemingly might not have much to do with the eye. For the best overall health, including regular eye exams as part of your healthcare plan – especially as you age – is critical to catching chronic conditions that may have a big effect on your long-term health and longevity. Even if the cost of an eye exam is not covered under your health insurance, it is well worth the cost not just to rule out any eye conditions that are present, but to ensure that you are healthy all the way around.