Common Senior Health Conditions Easily Detected Through an Eye Exam

eye exam

Common Senior Health Conditions Easily Detected Through an Eye Exam

Many Americans have put off routine health screenings because of the pandemic. Eye exams are a critical yet often overlooked healthcare check for seniors. Eye exams are not just for detecting issues with eye health – they can also signal greater wellness issues to your doctor. Your eye health is an indicator of your overall health and an important part of your lifestyle. 

Seniors Should Not Put Off their Eye Appointments

The pandemic may have thrown a curve ball into your yearly routines, including doctor’s appointments. It might seem easy to skip the eye doctor this year, and the year after that, and the year after that… but a routine eye exam could help reveal other health issues. Visiting the ophthalmologist is a critical part of maintaining your overall health. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you should get an eye exam every one to two years if you are over the age of 60[1]. You might consider more frequent eye exams if:

  • Loss of vision or eye disease runs in your family
  • Your medications have eye-related side effects
  • A chronic disease increases your risk of eye disease (e.g.: diabetes)
  • You wear contact lenses or glasses

Your age and eye health history both factor into how often you need an eye exam. Make sure to consider these as you schedule your next appointment. Routine eye appointments are part of a healthy senior lifestyle, just like a medical alert system or a daily exercise regimen. 

Health Issues Your Eye Doctor Might Discover

Ophthalmology appointments can help detect several health problems. A yearly eye exam might be a preventative measure against the progression of serious conditions. Here are some different conditions an eye exam can reveal.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause retinopathy, or damage to the retina’s blood vessels. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. When the retina is damaged, it can result in blurred vision, bleeding in the eye, or even a complete loss of vision. 

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, also delivers another telltale symptom: a bit of swelling in the eye. Extended periods of high blood pressure can cause the arteries of the retina to stiffen. This creates a bulging in the eye when pushed against a blood vessel. 

Heart Disease

Eye exams are integral to maintaining good heart health. Heart health and eye health are deeply connected, so eye exams are a “canary in the coal mine” for many heart conditions. Plaque deposits on the eye’s interior typically develop from buildups on the carotid artery. This artery supplies most of the blood that flows to the brain. The plaque deposits can potentially cause a stroke if they make it to the brain. If an eye exam detects signs of plaque deposits, you will need to make follow-up appointments for imaging. 

Eyes might also indicate whether you have ischemia, or reduced blood flow as a result of heart disease. The research for this claim is still ongoing. Since the retina does not regenerate, it will die if blood flow is interrupted. Dead cells leave behind residual damage, called retinal ischemic perivascular lesions[2]. An optical coherence tomography scan produces images of the retina and detects whether the person has these lesions, which can be an indication of cardiovascular disease.


Sometimes, diabetes presents no symptoms. Someone with diabetes might believe they have perfect health. An eye exam can pinpoint hidden signs of diabetes and help that person get the treatment they need. 

Retinopathy, the condition also caused by high blood pressure (see above), can be a telltale sign of diabetes. Retinal images allow doctors to identify early stages of retina damage and help prevent further loss of vision. Advanced diabetic retinopathy can cause the growth of  weak, abnormally-shaped blood vessels in the retina. These blood vessels leak blood into the eye and eventually cause loss of vision.

Diabetes affects blood vessels in the retina. Eye exams reveal swollen blood vessels, dilated capillaries, and microaneurysms. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease. The condition primarily impacts the joints, but it can also affect the eyes. People with rheumatoid arthritis will often experience dry eye. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause the eyes, specifically the sclera, to become inflamed. The sclera is the eye’s white outer layer, and it is primarily made of collagen. Inflammation targets collagen, which makes up most of the body’s connective tissue.   

Thyroid Disorders

Hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid gland, might cause protruding eyeballs and retracting lids. When someone suffers from retracting lids, they also might experience dry eye. The eye becomes understandably dry without appropriate eyelid coverage. An eye doctor will use an exophthalmometer during the eye exam to measure eyeball protrusion. 

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is not easy to diagnose. Doctors will use a combination of neurological and physical exams to make a final conclusion.  As you can imagine, misdiagnoses are common. However, RightEye Vision System uses a vision test to measure eye movement and help determine whether someone has Parkinson’s. If you take a RightEye test, you will follow prompts while staring at a screen. 

People who have Parkinson’s disease often experience ocular tremors before other symptoms develop. The RightEye tests can reveal the presence of ocular tremors through the use of eye-tracking technology. Identifying ocular tremors can expedite Parkinson’s diagnosis and treatment. 


Sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. The eyelids, specifically the lower lids, are especially susceptible to developing skin cancer[3]. An eye exam can help identify early stages of skin cancer on the eyelids and facilitate a diagnosis. Furthermore, the inside of the eye can sometimes develop melanoma, typically near the iris, the muscle fibers around the lens. A microscope can detect these rarer, well-hidden melanomas. 

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack and, ultimately, damage the central nervous system’s healthy nerve fibers. Inflammation crops up in the places where the nervous system is being attacked. The optic nerve is particularly prone to the inflammation caused by this form of autoimmune reaction. 

An eye doctor can look into the back of the eye and see the retina while conducting an eye exam. The doctor can also see the optic nerve, which sends messages from the eye to the brain. A healthy optic nerve means the doctor can see blood vessels and nerve fibers. However, a damaged optic nerve will lose color and become pale. Inflammation of the optic nerve due to multiple sclerosis is called optic neuritis[4]. People with optic neuritis might experience sudden vision loss and pain while moving the eyes. 

A routine eye exam can also reveal eye-movement abnormality. Multiple sclerosis causes nystagmus, or spontaneous and rapid eye movement. Some people with multiple sclerosis might have diplopia, or double vision, from nerve damage. Regular eye exams can detect these multiple sclerosis symptoms early on, and help the patient begin a robust treatment plan.

A Medical Alert System Is Part of a Healthy Lifestyle 

A regular eye exam can pinpoint health problems in the elderly population and help you create a treatment plan, but it is only one facet of a healthy lifestyle. Another part of a healthy senior lifestyle includes fall prevention. There are several ways to help reduce fall risk in your home, including installing handrails, using non-slip rugs, and lighting your home well. 

However, even the fear of falling may be a contributor to senior falls. When you are too cautious, you actually increase your chances of falling[5]. Now, what if you had a tool that could boost your confidence and connect you to emergency services if you fall or need assistance of any kind? Using a medical alert pendant or bracelet, or PERS device, may give you the peace of mind to live your healthy life to the fullest.

If you fall or experience any type of emergency, simply press the button on your button alarm and you will connect to a trained and certified agent at one of Alert1’s 24/7 Command Centers. Just like that, you’ll have someone who will get you the help you need and stay on the line with you until help arrives.

Another feature you might want to consider is fall detection technology. If you fall, this technology can sense your fall and automatically place a call to our Command Center—even if you are unable to press your button alarm. Fall detection technology would be especially helpful if you live alone or with someone who is unable to lift you in the event you go down.

Picking The Right Medical Alert System for You 

Your continued health is priceless, but medical costs can start to add up. Using an Alert1 medical alert pendant for seniors is a low-cost way to promote a healthy lifestyle. Think: big gains, small price tag. Alert1’s prices start at under $20 for a whole month of service. 

A medical alert bracelet or watch with SOS button alarm fits right into your healthy lifestyle. An effortless addition to a daily routine, medical alarms for the elderly provide seniors with extra comfort, security, peace of mind and support. 






[1] Mayo Clinic Staff. 2020, Jan. 14. High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body. Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body.

[2] Vazquez, Jeanna. 2021, Mar. 2. Heart Disease is in the Eye of the Beholder. U.C. San Diego News Center. Heart Disease is in the Eye of the Beholder.

[3] Bain, Julie. 2018, Sept. 25. Focus on Eyelid Skin Cancers: Early Detection and Treatment. Focus on Eyelid Skin Cancers: Early Detection and Treatment.

[4] Krause, Lydia. 2018, Sept. 29. Optic Neuritis. Optic Neuritis.

[5] Young, William R., Williams, A Mark. 2015, Jan 5. How fear of falling can increase fall-risk in older adults: applying psychological theory to practical observations. Gait and Posture. How fear of falling can increase fall-risk in older adults: applying psychological theory to practical observations.