Get an opthalmoscopic exam

A non-invasive, five- to 10-minute opthalmoscopic examination can reveal:

Hypertension – Detected by swelling of the optic nerve and visual center of the retina can, hypertension is caused from narrowing arteries and amount of blood pumped by the heart.(2&3) If hypertension is not controlled it can lead to permanent damage to the optic nerve or macula. Decreasing salt intake, eating healthy, physical activity and even supplementation with omega-3 oils or coenzyme Q10 can improve conditions.(3)

Diabetes mellitus and diabetic retinopathy – Diabetes is a condition whereby the body is resistant to insulin or cannot produce sufficient insulin.(4) It can lead to spots floating in vision, blurred vision, dark streaks or a red film blocking vision, poor night vision and diabetic retinopathy. The latter is detected using a dye to spot bleeding from blood vessels in the center of they eye.(5)

Cataracts – Detected by examining abnormalities in the cornea, iris, lens, and the space between the iris and cornea, cataracts cause clouding of the lens of the eye.(6) The impaired vision can develop slowly and reach a point when surgery may be needed.(6) Cataracts can be prevented through early detection, not smoking, eating well, protection from the son, and treating other problems such as diabetes.(6)

Age-related macular disease – Detected when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow and leak fluid damaging the macula rapidly, age-related macular disease (degeneration) gradually destroys sharp, central vision.(7) The disease causes no pain so its onset can be a surprise.(7) The disease appears to affect white women more than other populations.(7) Prevention involves not smoking, eating healthy, maintaining normal blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.(7)

References

1. Tortora, GJ & Derrickson, B. Principles of Anatomy and Physiology, 11th ed; 2006. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
2. MedlinePlus. Hypertensive retinopathy. Medical Encyclopedia [online]. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000999.htm. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
3. Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure (hypertension). Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
4. Mayo Clinic. Type 2 diabetes. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes/DS00585. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
5. Mayo Clinic. Diabetic retinopathy. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetic-retinopathy/DS00447. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
6. Mayo Clinic. Cataracts. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cataracts/DS00050. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.
7. National Eye Institute. Age-related macular degeneration. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp. Accessed on Nov. 1, 2008.

Published by David Despain, MS, CFS

David is a science and health writer living on Long Island, New York. He's written for a variety of publications including Scientific American, Outside Online, the American Society for Nutrition's (ASN) Nutrition Notes Daily, and Institute of Food Technologists' (IFT) Food Technology magazine and Live! blog. He's also covered new findings reported at scientific meetings including Experimental Biology, AAAS, AOCS, CASW, Sigma Xi, IFT, and others on his personal blog "Evolving Health." David is also an active member of organizations including the National Association of Science Writers (NASW), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute of Food Technologists, and the National Audubon Society. David has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, and a bachelor's degree in English from University of Illinois at Springfield. He also earned his Certified Food Scientist credential from the Institute of Food Technologists.

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