Can your optometrist see health problems through your eyes?

Woman at eye exam

Did you know that an eye exam can detect other health problems besides those relating to your vision? Keep reading to learn more about what illnesses you can see in the eyes and how optometrists diagnose them.


What Can an Eye Doctor Tell About your Health?

You might be surprised to learn that your routine eye exam does much more than determining the prescription for your glasses or contacts. When an optometrist looks into your eyes, they can gain valuable insights into your overall health and collect information that could help you identify potential issues.

Whereas some conditions show up in your mouth or skin, your eyes reveal a large percentage of different health issues. That's why diagnosing illness through the eyes is one of the most effective ways to spot certain problems before they get worse!

Illnesses That Can be Seen in the Eyes

As we mentioned, an eye exam can detect other health problems besides issues with your eyesight. For example, an optometrist can identify a brain tumor, aneurysm, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even high cholesterol.

Let's dive into more detail about how these conditions can be diagnosed through your eyes:  

Brain Tumors

Optometrists are usually the first healthcare provider to identify the existence of a brain tumor. If you have a brain tumor, the pressure that it exerts can be transmitted through your eyes, which results in swelling behind them.

Over time, this can affect the optic nerve - and your eye doctor will be able to see it. They can also diagnose it if a patient is having issues with double vision, loss of peripheral vision, or changes in the size of their pupil.  


An aneurysm is a medical term for a bubble within a blood vessel. This can weaken it over time and can cause a rupture or leak. Your eye doctor can diagnose this if you are experiencing loss of eye function or ocular migraines on one side of your head.


A detailed eye exam can also discover various types of cancers. Some skin cancer can affect the outer surface of your eye and even your eyelids, while lymphoma and leukemia can appear inside of your eyes.

Even breast cancer can be diagnosed through an eye exam because the malignant cells can spread to your ocular structures very quickly.


During your eye exam, the optometrist will examine the tiny blood vessels found in your retina. If they are leaking blood or yellow fluid, it is an indication of diabetic retinopathy. It is essential to catch it at this stage since early detection can prevent serious complications like vision loss.

Often this problem appears in your eye tissue well before you are even diagnosed with diabetes!

High Blood Pressure

While your optometrist performs an eye exam, they will look for unusual kinks, bends, or bleeding in the blood vessels behind your eye. This tells them that you might be suffering from high blood pressure.

Failing to treat this can lead to other diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.

High Cholesterol

Your eye doctor can also diagnose high cholesterol. They may notice a blue or yellow ring around your cornea, which can indicate high cholesterol in people under the age of 40. Elevated cholesterol levels can also be found by looking for deposits in your eye’s blood vessels.

As you can see,  your optometrist can diagnose a wide variety of illnesses by examining your eyes. This is why having regular, complete eye exams are so essential to your overall health - you never know what they might find!