Many people might be surprised to learn that an eye doctor can do more than save your vision. In some cases, an eye doctor has saved a life. When your eye doctor examines your eyes, he’s looking for more than just how well you read the eye chart and what, if any, sort of correction you’ll need to see better. In some cases of life-threatening diseases and conditions, the first symptoms may be noticeable only through your eyes. If an eye doctor spots something that concerns him, he may suggest or order an MRI for a closure look.
Why Does an MRI Show?
Your eyes, the tissues around them and your brain don’t show up well, and sometimes not at all, on standard x-rays. But an MRI is a useful diagnostic procedure your eye doctor may want because it gives him a good view of your soft tissues in the eye orbit and brain. Your doctor might also order a type of MRI that requires an injection to make the optic nerve visible.
How Can It Save a Life?
Neuro-ophthalmic conditions can be serious and have symptoms like a drooping eyelid, dilated pupil, or an in-turned eye. These can be early symptoms of stroke, transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) brain tumor, or myasthenia gravis, which is an autoimmune neuromuscular disease.
Pupil-involving third cranial nerve palsy, which impairs eye movement, may signal a brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is a bulging and weakening of an artery. A ruptured aneurysm in the brain causes hemorrhaging in the brain and could be fatal.
Loss of visual fields, which some patients may not even be aware of without the help of their eye doctor, can be a symptom of a tumor in the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a tiny gland in the brain that controls many other hormone glands. Doctors call it the “master gland”.
Melanoma of the eye, although rare, is still the most common kind of cancer affecting the eyes. It may cause symptoms a patient might notice, like sensation of flashing lights or poor vision in one eye. But it may not involve any symptoms a person is likely to notice. Dark spots on the iris and loss of peripheral vision are symptoms an eye doctor may spot that the patient has not.
More than Just Eye Health
Having regular eye exams is important for much more than just seeing well and having healthy eyes. Eye doctors are trained to detect symptoms, through your eyes, that may be undetectable to you or in such early stages of life-threatening issues for which early intervention is imperative. An MRI is a well recognized and useful diagnostic tool your eye doctor may order to save your life.