What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?

What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 54 percent of the American public gets an annual eye exam.

An eye exam often results in a prescription for corrective lenses. But did you know there are also a number of diseases that can be detected by an optometrist during an exam?

In this blog post, we'll examine what diseases can be detected in an eye exam to help you be informed.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition that results in the deterioration of the central part of the vision, and it affects millions of people. Symptoms typically include:

  • hazy or blurred vision
  • difficulty seeing faces
  • difficulty reading
  • trouble adjusting to dim lighting

Your family eye doctor may be able to detect macular degeneration through a comprehensive eye exam, which typically includes tests such as a vision test, pupil dilation, and an examination of the retina. Once macular degeneration is detected, the doctor may need to image the eye for a more accurate diagnosis.


When a person has diabetes, it affects the small blood vessels in the body, including the eyes. During an eye exam, an ophthalmologist will use a device called a retinal camera to take digital images of the back of the eye.

These images can be used to detect signs of diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness. Signs that may be detected include bleeding in the retina, swelling of the retina, and changes to the tiny laboratory vessels that signal potential diabetic eye issues.

Multiple Sclerosis

An eye exam can be useful in detecting diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) because MS can cause vision loss. An ophthalmologist can look for signs such as:

  • optic nerve damage
  • reduced clarity of the nerves
  • leaking blood vessels
  • swelling of the optic nerve

Other signs of MS, such as inflammation or atrophy in these areas, can also be detected. Additionally, changes in the eye, such as blurred vision, eye spasms, or strange vision movements, may be indicative of MS.

Retinal Dystrophies

Retinal dystrophies are inherited disorders of the eye that cause progressive vision loss. They are caused by changes in various genes and can be diagnosed through an eye exam.

A doctor will look at the retina to detect changes in color and texture, which can indicate the presence of retinal dystrophies. The doctor may also take detailed photographs of the retina to determine if there is any abnormality.


Though difficult to detect, tumors near the optic nerve, retina, and choroid are all detectable during a comprehensive eye exam. Tumors near other structures of the eye may be visible when examining the mirror of the eye or when conducting a peripheral visual field test.

Though the likelihood of these tumors is very low, it is important to be aware of the possibility and to inform a doctor if any new symptoms arise.

Discovering What Diseases Can Be Detected in an Eye Exam

An eye exam is an integral part of maintaining healthy vision and should be completed annually. Learning what diseases can be detected in an eye exam is important before problems develop.

Early detection of diseases is very beneficial to preserving sight. To keep your eyes healthy, make an appointment with your optometrist today!

Check out our other blog posts for more health and lifestyle tips.