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When I look into your eyes, what can I see?

There are a lot of systemic diseases that can have manifestations in the eye, some diseases can even be diagnosed from an eye exam. It is the only place in the body that blood vessels are visible, so many vascular conditions can be diagnosed early by looking at the retinal vessels. Diabetes and high blood pressure are just two examples. There is a long list of conditions that have associated eye manifestations.

During a regular eye exam, we have access to examine the eye’s variety of tissues including eyelids, conjunctiva (mucus membranes), cornea, lens and sclera—made of collagen and proteins—the iris and retina. Everything from arthritis to dermatologic, neurologic, vascular and infectious diseases can be seen in the eye. Double vision, or diplopia, can be seen with some neurologic conditions, such as a stroke or myasthenia gravis. Abnormal growth of blood vessels can be seen in diabetes and hypertension. Sometimes children are born with cataracts, and adults who have deposits in their cornea and lens can give clues to diagnose hereditary systemic conditions. Rheumatologic conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, can have eye manifestations like dry eyes and scleritis.

Next time you see your ophthalmologist, you will know it is not just to get glasses!– Dr. Lisa Martén

Sometimes even medications can affect the eye. Simple side effects can include blurry vision, but some medications, like plaquenil, require routine testing to avoid macular complications. Amiodarone, a common medication for arrhythmias or heart conditions, can have swirl deposits on the surface of the eye.

Don’t neglect your annual eye exam. Next time you see your ophthalmologist, you will know it is not just to get glasses! Sometimes, we can tell you about the condition of your diabetes or high blood pressure, or even tell you which medications you take.


Lisa Martén, M.D., is a board-certified ophthalmologist at the South Texas Eye Institute. For more information visit or call 210.692.1388. The South Texas Eye Institute is located at 2424 Babcock Road, Suite 101 in San Antonio, TX 78229.

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