What diseases can be detected in an eye exam?

eye exam

They say the eyes are full of language. An optometrist is often the interpreter, translating what they tell us about our general health. An optician can detect more than 20 health conditions that might not yet be identifiable from other tests or that are still in their early stages. In some scenarios, an eye test can even be a live-saver. So what diseases can be detected in an eye exam?

How does an eye test identify potential health conditions?

Studies have shown that around one in five of us have a non-eye-related health problem that could be spotted during a routine eye exam. Many diseases have little or no symptoms during the early stages but can be picked up by various tests carried out during an eye exam.

A routine eye exam can typically identify sight issues plus eye health conditions including cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. A thorough check of each part of the eye can also reveal a host of signs that indicate wider health concerns.

What diseases can be detected in an eye exam?


Accordng to Diabetes UK nearly five million people in the UK are living with a diagnosis of diabetes but 850,000 are unaware that they have type 2 of the condition. Untreated diabetes can lead to severe complications that affect nearly all parts of the body and can be fatal. During an eye exam, an ophthalmologist can pick up small amounts of bleeding on the retina which could be a ‘silent symptom’ of diabetes.

Heart disease

British Heart Foundation say that heart and circulatory diseases account for a quarter of all deaths in the UK. An eye doctor can spot a white ring around the cornea that indicates the possibility of high blood cholesterol. This is a common cause of coronary heart disease and increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure can burst blood vessels at the back of the eye that can be easily spotted during an eye exam. Figures from Blood Pressure UK indicate that half of people with high blood pressure are undiagnosed and so are not receiving treatment for a condition that is the third biggest risk factor for all disease, behind smoking and poor diet.

Brain tumours

During a routine eye test, an ophthalmologist will be able to detect unusual pupil dilation and abnormal coloring of the optic nerve. They will also check for blurred vision. All of these can be signs of a brain tumour. Brain tumours are responsible for 15 deaths a day in the UK according to Cancer Research.

Other diseases that can be identified by an eye exam

As well as the above major killers in the UK, an eye exam can also assist in the diagnosis of these conditions, among others:

• Thyroid disease – an overactive thyroid can result in bulging eyelids
• Rheumatoid arthritis – exhibited by red eyes and pain
• Skin cancer – may be visible on the outer surfaces of the eye and eye lid
• Lymphoma and leukaemia – both can cause changes to the inner structures of the eye

The eye test picture in Wales

Regular eye checks can help detect disease early. There have been publicized concerns that many people were unable to attend their routine eye appointments during the pandemic and have still to ‘catch up’.

In Wales, the government estimates that 72% of people have not had an eye test in the last two years. The Hywel Dda Local Health Board which collects data on eye tests in Cardigan and the wider area, indicate that 46,000 eye tests are carried out each year in the west of Wales.

That suggests that around 80,000 more people in our region should have had an eye test that could have potentially spotted a wide range of health conditions. If that’s you, then get in touch with our bi-lingual optical team to book an eye test today. If you have more questions like ‘what diseases can be detected in an eye exam, we’re more than happy to answer them.