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You may already know that your eye doctor can diagnose glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts, as well as a number of other eye disorders when performing a regular eye exam. However, did you know that your ophthalmologist can also be the first to detect diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or even multiple sclerosis?

If you’ve been putting off getting your eyes checked because you feel that your eyesight is normal and healthy, you might want to make an appointment with your eye doctor anyway. Early diagnosis and expedient treatment can be the difference between routine, outpatient procedures and frightening trips to the emergency room. In some cases, they can even mean the difference between life and death.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Many individuals don’t go to the doctor to have their blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked until their 40s and 50s. As a result, high blood pressure can go unchecked in a younger person for several years. During a routine eye exam, your ophthalmologist will check your retinas for squiggly blood vessels that have become enlarged and reddened due to high blood pressure.

DIABETES

Type 2 diabetes can go undiagnosed for years, only worsening as time goes on. However, many ophthalmologists have diagnosed patients with diabetes and referred them to doctors who could give them the care needed. How? Most often, your doctor will examine your retinas and notice a small amount of bleeding, which is usually an early symptom of diabetic retinopathy.

By itself, diabetic retinopathy can cause blindness, and increase your risk for weight gain or weight loss, massive infections, stroke, coma, and even death.

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

Even more surprising, your eye doctor may be the first medical professional to detect the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative disease that attacks the nervous system, making it difficult or impossible to move and function without medication or extensive medical treatments. Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS, but when diagnosed early on and treated, it is usually a manageable disease. Plus, regular visits to your eye doctor could be the key to early diagnosis.

Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis) is one of the very first detectable symptoms of MS. It occurs in about 75 percent of MS cases, and your ophthalmologist can help detect this inflammation.

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