Eye Exams Can Detect Cancer and Other Health Issues

When you hear “cancer screenings,” do you think mammograms and colonoscopies?

Eye exams probably don’t spring to mind, but they are a key tool in detecting cancer and other health issues.

David Pao, MD, past president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology and a Pennsylvania Medical Society member, said a thorough eye exam can detect impending strokes, brain tumors and other indications of cancer, and signs of diseases like multiple sclerosis. Eye exams also pick up the early signs of eye disease, such as glaucoma and diabetes- and age-related eye problems.

“Once you turn 40, it’s time for a comprehensive medical eye exam that includes pupil dilation,” Dr. Pao said.

But, according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s recent Patient Poll, only 40 percent of adult Pennsylvanians surveyed have had their eyes checked in the last year.

The current recommendation is that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease undergo a baseline comprehensive eye examination by an ophthalmologist at age 40—the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur.

Dr. Pao suggests the following guidelines for a comprehensive eye exam:

  • Ages 40-54, every 2-4 years
  • Ages 55-64, every 1-3 years
  • Ages 65 and over, every 1-2 years

No matter what your age, if you have a family history of eye disease, or if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk with your ophthalmologist about how frequently your eyes should be examined.