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What Your Eyes Say About Your Health

A close-up of a woman's face, with a Snellen eye chart in the background

Most people would not argue about the importance of taking care of our eyes because we only have two of them. However, many people do not realize what a comprehensive eye exam can tell the doctor about your health—even things that seem unrelated to your eyes.

You’ve probably heard that regular eye exams can detect diabetes before showing any other symptoms. But did you know that the same exam can detect several types of cancer? 

Let’s see what else the eye doctor can tell us.

What Can Your Eyes Say About Your Health?

For some of the following things, your eye doctor may be able to give you insight into something in your body before you have any symptoms. In some cases, even before your general practitioner diagnoses it.


It’s possible that your eye tissue can show signs of diabetes before a diagnosis. When diabetes is detected early, it can help you avoid serious complications like vision loss because you can get control of the disease.


Several types of skin cancers will commonly affect the eyelids. In addition, leukemia and lymphoma are two other cancers that a comprehensive eye exam can detect. It’s also not unheard of for tumors to spread to your ocular structure from the other areas of your body. 

Autoimmune Diseases

There are quite a few autoimmune diseases that your eye doctor could find during a comprehensive eye exam. Here they are with their primary ocular symptoms:

  • Lupus: Dry eyes are the most common symptom. Some eye swelling is also possible.
  • Myasthenia gravis: Drooping eyelids and double vision are commonly associated with this disease.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: The most common symptom is red, dry eyes with extreme discomfort. If scleritis develops due to arthritis, you’ll likely require medical therapy.
  • Sarcoidosis: Inflammation of the iris and light sensitivity are the two most common symptoms of this disease.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome: Dry, burning, and stinging eyes are common symptoms. But blurry vision has been noted as well.
  • Graves’ disease: Red, itchy eyes are common with Graves’. In some instances, it can cause your ocular muscles to swell, which causes your eyes to bulge.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

While MS primarily affects your nervous system, one common telltale sign is inflammation of your optic nerve. If your eye doctor detects the inflammation, they will likely ask if you’ve been experiencing any other symptoms like severe discomfort when moving your eye or blurred vision.


Losing peripheral vision is a potential sign of having had a stroke. But in addition, the eye doctor may find blockages or clots in the blood vessels of your retina. These blockages may suggest that you’re at an increased risk of suffering from a stroke.

Vitamin Deficiency

As we age, our night vision decreases. But if you’re a young person and suffering from night blindness, you may be deficient in vitamin A. Dry eye syndrome is also another potential sign of a vitamin A deficiency.

Brain Tumor

As a tumor in your brain grows, it creates a lot of pressure because there isn’t much room for growth—which is why the inflammation is so dangerous. Sometimes, this pressure translates to your eyes by causing inflammation in the optic nerve. In addition, losing side vision, pupils changing size, and double vision are also signs that may point toward a brain tumor.

A male optometrist speaking with his female patient

This Doesn’t Replace a Visit to Your General Practitioner

It’s incredible that our eyes can say so much about our health. However, an eye doctor doesn’t necessarily have training in treating these different conditions, nor do they have all the necessary tools.

It’s no different from your family doctor not having the necessary tools and training to diagnose and treat eye conditions properly. Sure, they can perform a visual acuity test, but they lack the specialized training regarding your eyes.

Suppose your eye doctor does suspect that you may have something wrong elsewhere in your body based on your eye exam. In that case, they will likely direct you to see your family doctor. In some cases, they may instruct you to seek emergency care depending on what they suspect.

Regular Visits to see your Optometrist are Important

Of course, the primary goal of your optometrist is to help you take care of your eyes. But a huge benefit of their knowledge is that they can offer you insight into how the rest of your body functions.

Reach out to our office today if you’re coming due for your next eye exam. Our friendly staff is happy to schedule you a convenient time to visit.

Written by Dr. Ray Glendrange

Dr. Glendrange has stayed on the cutting edge of technological advances in the field of ophthalmology, utilizing innovation to enhance the treatment outcomes of all his patients. He was the first to perform corrective LASIK eye surgery in Riverside, and utilizes a variety of premium refractive IOL technologies, affording his patients undergoing Cataract surgery a range of choices, potentially eliminating their need for glasses after surgery.

Dr. Glendrange has been an Assistant Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the UC Riverside School of Medicine for almost 20 years, teaching the 1st year medical students about the eyes, the eye exam, and diseases of the eye. He also mentors 3rd and 4th year UCR medical students interested in pursuing a career in Ophthalmology to help them achieve their dream of matching in an Ophthalmology Residency. Then there are countless students and residents who work with him in his office to become more proficient with the eye exam.

Now with over 30 years’ experience, Dr. Glendrange is an accomplished knowledgeable ophthalmologist, dedicated to ensuring the best care and outcomes for all his patients.

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