We’ve all heard the expression that “hindsight is 20/20.” But what if we gave ourselves the opportunity to find out about upcoming problems ahead of them actually developing? Hindsight is not always necessary if you have insight into the future.
And as it turns out, annual eye exams might give patients exactly the insight they need – a preview of potential other health issues coming down the line.
Did you know the general public visits optometrists more frequently than other providers in the healthcare system? Since they see patients more frequently, eye care providers have the opportunity to use annual eye exams to their patients’ advantage and make them aware of other potential chronic medical issues during these visits.
A 2014 study indicated that as many as 5.6 percent of the total chronic conditions identified in patients – especially diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis – were actually identified by their eye care provider. Similarly, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension were found to be the most commonly identified chronic conditions through a comprehensive eye exam. In some cases, it was discovered that the patients knew about their condition, but had not seen their healthcare provider about it regularly. It was the encouragement of their optometrist that helped these patients re-engage in care for their chronic conditions and diseases.
It makes sense that eye care providers should hold this unique position as gatekeepers to their patients’ health – an eye exam is far less invasive than other medical procedures can be, and a few additional tests – blood pressure, BMI readings, etc. – can provide opportunities for early detection or monitoring of chronic conditions.
This previously overlooked role for eyecare might not only improve overall healthcare, but could also reduce costs for patients looking at chronic issues. Earlier detection and monitoring means conditions may not worsen to more extreme levels. And given that some of these conditions – like diabetes – have vision loss as a result, optometrists have a vested interest in ensuring early detection of the disease.
The role of an eye care provider and of the annual eye exam has once again been lauded as a valuable part of overall health. Pursuing quality vision – and thereby, an improved quality of life – continues to be of the utmost importance. This validation is one more reason that together we should continue Giving Vision a Voice.