Expert shares four diseases that are detected early by eye tests

Luke's story explains why eye tests are vital for healthy living

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Regular eye tests can spot elusive health conditions that are hard to detect until they’re dangerous. For example, experts can use routine eye tests to spot the presence of a brain tumour way before symptoms become obvious. The optician Kyla Black, head of Professional Services at Boots Opticians, spoke to about the common diseases they’re able to spot “early” before they get worse and “potentially life-threatening”.

High blood pressure

This rarely has noticeable symptoms. More than one in four adults don’t even realise they have it. Severe hypertension can cause some symptoms, such as blurred vision, chest pain or shortness of breath. But these normally spring up in the midst of a medical emergency, such as a heart attack or a stroke.

Black said: “Many people do not realise that general health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which can both become serious if not treated early, can be detected from a routine eye test.

“An Optometrist can identify high blood pressure or diabetes from an eye test by looking at the blood vessels visible at the back of the eye.”

During an eye test, the optician may measure the diameter of the blood vessels in your eye to determine if you’re likely to have high blood pressure, according to the University of Hertfordshire.

The institution reported that signs of high blood pressure may show up as red areas where bleeding in the eyes is taking place.

Black added: “If hypertension is not diagnosed and left untreated it can lead to several eye diseases, including hypertensive retinopathy, which is when there is damage to the eye’s blood vessels such as leaks or tears from the blood passing through the vessels with force.”


This condition is most common in people in their 70s and 80s. Glaucoma happens when fluid builds up in the eye, increasing pressure. This pressure can “gradually” cause the nerves connecting the brain and eyes to die, according to Black, but causes the optic nerve that links the brain to the eye to become disrupted.

Black warned that the pressure is painless in its early development and it only affects the patient’s peripheral vision, making it hard to notice. When it is finally “advanced” enough to be noticeable, it may also be “untreatable”.

In its acute stage, it can cause intense pain, redness in your eyes, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision. And if it is left untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness.

But fortunately, eye tests can help spot the signs early. Black said: “During an eye check the Optometrist will check for any signs of glaucoma in the back of the eye and may also check the pressure inside the eye and check the visual field to check the peripheral vision.

“Many opticians now have an OCT scanner which can detect nerve loss even before it is visible on a field defect so this can be worth having, especially if you have a family history or are in a high-risk group.

Macular degeneration – wet or dry?

Age-related macular degeneration is a common cause of eyesight loss. It does show symptoms, such as the centre of your vision becoming blurry, but an eye test can help to quickly determine if you have a treatable or untreatable version of the disease.

AMD can be either “wet” or “dry”. Wet macular degeneration can be treated. But this treatment has to start “soon after” the onset of any symptoms, according to Black.

Getting an eyetest as quick as possible if these symptoms show up can help to make sure you’re diagnosed quickly and get relevant treatment.

Black said: “The Optometrist will be able to differentiate between the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, especially if they have an OCT scanner so it is always worth getting an urgent opinion if you have any sudden onset distortion.”

Brain tumour

Brain tumours can cause the optic disc, that connects your brain and eye, to become swollen. They may also restrict the flow of fluid in your eye, increasing pressure around your brain.

Eye tests can spot both these processes, according to Brain Tumour Research.

According to Brain Tumour Research, sometimes that there is direct pressure on the optic nerve if a tumour is present in this area.

As it progresses, symptoms of brain tumours affecting your eyes include “unusual dilation of the pupil in one or both eyes”.

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