It’s Glaucoma Awareness Month, so I’m taking this opportunity to post about eye health. Let’s keep our peepers in tip-top shape!
You know the saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” But did you know the eyes are also the “windows” to our health? Examination of the eyes can reveal intrinsic eye disease, but also demonstrate diseases relating to the rest of the body. Dr. Roger Rath, a leading ophthalmologist in Florida with over 30 years of experience, filled me in on 4 diseases that present with symptoms and signs to the patient and doctor:
Symptoms: The patient may experience marked fluctuation in vision during the course of a day–due to blood sugar levels–and see hemorrhages on the white of the eye. An ophthalmologist can detectprotein deposits and hemorrhages on the back of the eye. Advanced diabetes can also cause retinal tears and detachments. In a retinal tear, the patient will experience a sudden onset of floaters, flashing lights, or a veil over the field of vision. Tears can lead to retinal detachments, where the patient will have blind spots in their visual field that look like black spaces. Not everyone will experience eye problems in the case of diabetes, depending on the type and severity of the disease.
Symptoms: This disease will present as iritis, or inflammation, within the front of the eye. A doctor might see a cloudy cornea, caused by an increase in eye pressure. Scleroderma is a connective tissue disorder that may cause the eventual melting or perforation of the sclera (the white part of the eye). In the case of lupus, the doctor might see changes in the eye’s blood vessels, although this sign is not exclusive of that disease.
Symptoms: There aren’t many early symptoms noticeable to the patient in chronic glaucoma, although a doctor could see changes in the optic nerve in the back part of the eye. In acute glaucoma, the patient would feel intense eye pain and head pressure due to a sudden increase in pressure in the eye. Both major forms of chronic and acute glaucoma, left untreated, will cause optic nerve damage and reduction, or loss, of visual field and blindness.
Symptoms: The most common symptom is reduction in vision. As the cataract grows, the patient experiences further decreased visual acuity (blurred/cloudy vision) and light sensitivity.
According to Dr. Rath, eye symptoms of the previously mentioned diseases are frequently non-specific and can vary with each patient. If you have any concerns, see an ophthalmologist. Are you in your 20’s and 30’s and have no eye problems and no family history of eye disease? You might be able to get away with seeing an eye doctor every 5 years. If you are experiencing eye problems, have undergone eye surgery, or are older, see the ophthalmologist at least once a year.
Roger Rath, M.D., F.A.C.S., MBA was the founder of Lake Eye Associates in Eustis, Leesburg, and The Villages (Florida) from 1977-2005, and was a recognized surgeon in his field. In addition to a busy practice, he performed surgery on hundreds of patients on eye missionary trips to the Philippines, St. Kitts, Fiji, and Bangladesh. Dr. Rath also taught as a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Florida. He currently does consulting work and is a visiting professor at the University of Central Florida. I chose him because of his expertise and, oh yeah, because he’s my ♥dad ♥