The benefits of an annual exam go well beyond keeping your eyes healthy and in working order. A close inspection of all structures of the eye can reveal a number of systemic disorders, even before you experience any symptoms. Here are some hidden health problems eye exams can catch:


Blood vessels in the back of the eye (retina) that bleed or leak a yellowish fluid can be a sign of diabetic retinopathy. In some cases, diabetes appears in the eye even before a person is diagnosed with the condition. If left undiagnosed and untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.

High Blood Pressure

Unusual kinks, bends, swelling, or bleeding from tiny blood vessels in the retina can signal high blood pressure. The arteries of the retina may also stiffen, weaken, or become narrowed. High blood pressure is a risk factor in the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases.

Heart Disease

Eye exams can detect a number of cardiovascular conditions. Your eyes can display evidence of ischemia, which is decreased blood flow due to heart disease. When blood flow is interrupted, cells in the retina begin to die, leaving behind a permanent mark. An eye exam can also detect clogged arteries even before the patient knows there’s a problem. Blocked arteries, especially hose those that bring blood to the head and neck, can result in tissue damage, stroke, and blindness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This chronic inflammatory disease can also be revealed through a routine eye exam. Common ocular signs of rheumatoid arthritis include redness and severe pain. This inflammatory disease can also cause painful inflammation of the sclera (the white part of the eye). Dry eye is also a common side effect of RA.


A weakening in the wall of a blood vessel can cause it to swell or bubble out. The weak wall can rupture or leak in the vein, artery, or capillary. Aneurysm can also occur in the eye. It can cause loss of body or facial function and a severe, one-sided headache. Aneurysms can be catastrophic and if detected, they require immediate medical attention.

Brain Tumor

Tumors in the brain cause increased pressure that gets transmitted to the eye. Swelling in the retina causes changes to the optic nerve that an ophthalmologist can see during an eye exam. Changes in the size of the pupil, double vision, or loss of side vision are other signs of a brain tumor.

Certain Types of Cancer

Many forms of cancer can be detected in a comprehensive eye exam. For instance, dark spots in the retina can be a sign of skin cancer and retinal bleeding can indicate leukemia. Tumors in the breast, brain, and other areas can also spread to the ocular structures. Abnormalities detected during an eye exam can allow you to seek treatment as early as possible.

An eye doctor can detect a host of health problems that may have otherwise gone undetected. As such, getting regular eye exams is an extremely important part of maintaining good overall health. Take control of your eye health and schedule your next eye exam at Valley Eyecare Center. Call (602) 955-2700 or request an appointment online.