If we want to stay healthy, we all know how important it is to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and get checked by our doctor every year. Clearly, those things are critical in order for us to take care of and monitor our bodies and our overall health.
But how often do you get your eyes checked by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist? Unless you wear glasses or notice your vision changing, how likely are you to even think about the health of your eyes? After all, your eyes don’t affect your body’s health. You won’t gain weight, increase your chances of cancer, increase the likelihood of high blood pressure or diabetes if your eyes are compromised, right? As long as you can see, what’s the big deal?
It turns out that getting your eyes and vision checked on a regular basis actually is extremely important for your health. Let’s explore some eye conditions and concerns that expose why taking care of our eyes is so important to being healthy.
1. According to the CDC, the health of your eyes can affect your overall health. “People with vision problems are more likely than those with good vision to have diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and strokes, as well as have increased risk for falls, injury and depression.” The health of our eyes really can have an effect on the rest of our bodies.
2. The older we get, the more likely we are to have problems with our eyes, just like we are more likely to have issues with other body parts. And since our vision is a necessary part of our everyday lives, it makes sense to monitor and protect it. While you may not increase your odds of getting cancer if your eyes aren’t healthy, losing your vision will affect your quality of life a great deal. The older we get, the more important it is for us to stay on top of any changes in our eyes.
3. Developing cataracts, a clouding of the lens, affects vision. It’s more common in older people, and can affect night driving, can cause blurry vision, and can cause decreased color vision. Although cataracts can be corrected with glasses at first, it may eventually become necessary for an eye surgeon to remove the cataract from the affected lens. Early detection is very helpful for keeping this common eye problem from progressing too far.
4. Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that has no cure. It can be treated if caught early, however, which is why it’s so critical that your eyes be checked regularly to catch it before irreversible vision loss occurs. Glaucoma has no symptoms at first, and it progresses slowly. While it does affect all kinds of people, certain groups are more at risk. Eye pressure and diabetes are the primary causes.
5. This eye condition only affects people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy may actually help alert some people to the fact that they have diabetes. Some people already have diabetic retinopathy when first diagnosed with diabetes. If you have a diabetes diagnosis already, it is likely that you will develop this condition that can lead to blindness. The beginning stages may have no symptoms, so regular checkups with an ophthalmologist are important for early diagnosis and treatment.
6. Age-related macular degeneration is a condition that, as its name implies, affects people as they age. It doesn’t cause blindness, but it does affect vision. It can be detected by an eye doctor, although there aren’t definitive treatments. Nutrition seems to play a role in its cause and its possible treatment, so getting regular eye exams may alert you to dietary issues. At the very least, finding out that you have this condition early can allow you time to make informed preparations for lifestyle changes.
7. You may not realize your eyesight could be improved. If you rarely get checked, you may not even notice your eyesight is worsening. You may be surprised to find out that with corrective lenses or Lasik surgery, you could live your daily life with better vision than you already have.
Taking care of your body includes “keeping an eye” on more than just the usual suspects. Your eyes are important, whether as indicators of a bigger problem, or whether as body parts whose improvement could change your life. When you think about staying healthy, don’t forget about your eyes. What you can’t see can hurt you.