What Does Looking Into Your Eyes Have To Do With High Cholesterol?

The other day I went to my ophthalmologists for my yearly eye exam. You know, to see why my current glasses weren’t working so well anymore and why I have to read books with my arms stretched out about a foot and a half. Before the exam to check for general vision and just after the routine puffs in my eyes to check for glaucoma, I was asked if I wanted to have my eyes dilated or to take this fancy x-ray test. The x-ray test called an optomap retina exam, takes a picture of the back of your eye. It checks for diseases, not just related to your eyes, like glaucoma and macular degeneration, but it can also detect early signs of diabetes and hypertension. It’s a pretty progressive procedure. This machine shines a very bright light in your eye and the image is projected onto a monitor. The doctor explains the image and if you are lucky and the image looks normal, he will then show you images of retinas that show signs of abnormalities.

So something so great should be given to everyone that gets an eye exam. It can create a baseline of your retina to be compared against year after year. So why doesn’t everyone get this exam? Perhaps because this $40 test is not covered by insurance. But why? If you can simply take a snapshot of your eye and determine early signs of diabetes or high cholesterol or hypertension, why wouldn’t it be part of basic preventive care?

Maybe this should be the start of a new campaign to educate the general public on the importance of eye care. Even if you have 20/20 vision. One thing that was clear after my visit to the ophthalmologist was that if these exams had shown signs of early diabetes, the conversation ended there in this doctor’s office. Although he was very knowledgeable on reading the results of the scan, he had no educational material on diabetes or hypertension or high cholesterol if my results had not been so positive. Because I was curious, I asked him what would be the next step if the results showed signs of high cholesterol. Or was there any patient educational material he could share? His suggestion would be a recommendation to see my primary care physician for more details. Maybe this is an opportunity for the makers of medications to treat these conditions to reach out to a new channel to market and provide educational material. Seems pretty clear to me.

For more information on the optomap retina exam, take a look at this video.



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