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Your Eyes Are a Window into the Health of Your Whole Body

One woman's struggle with reading was the first sign of a serious medical condition.

Chantal Jacques, O.D.

Forty-two-year-old Camilla* blamed her blurry vision on her age.

No longer able to read up close, she assumed that she (like many adults over 40) simply needed reading glasses or bifocals. So she booked an eye exam at the America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses store in Crestwood, Mo.

During the refraction test, Chantal Jacques, O.D., realized that Camilla's vision was not correctable to 20/20. It was reduced. Glasses would not help. 

Dr. Jacques dilated Camilla’s eyes and looked inside them. That’s when she noticed the bleeding and swelling inside the eyes. It was a textbook case of diabetic retinopathy. No doubt about it: Camilla had diabetes. 

At Dr. Jacques’s urging, Camilla followed up with her family doctor that same day and discovered that her blood sugar levels were extremely high. 

An A1C test is used to measure the average blood glucose over 2 to 3 months. According to the American Diabetes Association, an A1C of 6.5 percent or higher is considered diabetes. Camilla’s A1C was more than 14 percent, which means that she had been living with extremely high blood sugar for several months. And the only symptom she’d experienced was through her vision. 

“People don’t realize that your eye can be a window into the health of your whole body,” Dr. Jacques says. “Often, the first signs of disease show up in the eyes.” Since the blood vessels in the eye are so small, they can be the first affected by a systemic problem, Dr. Jacques says. Elevated blood sugar, for example, can cause those vessels to rupture and leak. 

Camilla was placed on blood sugar medication by her family doctor and referred to a retinal specialist, who administered eye injections to help preserve as much of her vision as possible. 

Routine eye exams before any vision problems emerge can spot problems like diabetes early on and avoid vision loss. In Camilla’s case, by the time she was examined by an optometrist, she already had noticeable symptoms and some vision loss. However, if she hadn’t come in at all, the result could have been a diabetic coma or even death. 

No matter how jam-packed your schedule, Dr. Jacques encourages everyone to stay on top of scheduling a yearly complete eye exam. After all, nothing is as important as your health.

*Name changed to protect patient privacy.




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