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Through Patients’ Eyes See the Bigger Picture of Their Overall Health

Our eyes see the world around us but — thanks to routine comprehensive eye exams — they can also show what’s going on inside the body.

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OUR EYES SEE the world around us, but they can also show what’s going on inside the body. That’s because conditions affecting other parts of the body often first show signs in the eyes, giving vision providers opportunities to detect these symptoms early and to help patients receive proper care. Early detection is important in many acute and chronic conditions because it helps to improve outcomes and reduces costs.

Eye exams are one of the most effective ways for health care providers to see inside the body without invasive procedures. In the United States, diabetes is among the most common medical conditions, with 1.5 million new cases diagnosed annually. Initial symptoms of diabetes can be difficult to detect, but a common symptom — retinal bleeding — can be identified during routine eye exams.

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Another prevalent condition that can be accurately detected early through an eye exam is shingles, which often occur around the eyelids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime.

Additionally, as an extension of the brain, neurological conditions can show symptoms in the eye. In an exterior exam, crossed eyes can indicate severe conditions like stroke or brain tumors. An interior examination can show the sheathing of brain tissue and detect underlying issues like multiple sclerosis.

From hypertension to cancer, over 100 medical and eye conditions can show symptoms or signs in the eyes, and many are detectable during routine eye exams. These exams can be safeguards, but detection is just the first step, critical early intervention affords the best odds at successful treatment.

In addition to giving patients the best odds, proactive medical treatment is almost always less expensive than reactive. Cancer treatment can be two to four times less expensive with early detection, according to the World Health Organization.

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If early detection and treatment improve patients’ survival chances and reduce costs, how do we increase instances of early detection?

There is too much at stake to forgo routine eyecare, yet many patients do because they don’t understand how it can provide a better picture of their overall health. According to an American Optometric Association study, patients with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Richard Hom, OD, PhD, has been the Optometric Director at Anthem, Inc. in Thousand Oaks, CA, since 2012. He holds doctorates in Biomedicine and Optometry as well as an MPA degree. Dr. Hom is a Diplomate in Public Health and Environmental Vision with the American Academy of Optometry and a Trustee of the California Optometric Association. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/drhom.

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