Looking to get a sense of your overall body health? Just have a medical professional look into your eyes or your mouth. It’s a little-known fact that oral and vision health are actually windows into our overall body health: serious medical conditions often originate there first. In fact, many serious medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer have actually been diagnosed as a result of routine eye and dental exams.
Poor oral health can develop into a host of medical conditions.
This actually makes sense when you think about it. Our mouths lead down to our digestive and respiratory tracts, so any bacteria present can easily travel further down into our bodies and blossom from there. Your body’s natural defenses and good oral hygiene can help keep bacteria at bay, but should bacteria spread it could lead to:
- Respiratory infections. Bacteria in your mouth can travel to your lungs, causing respiratory conditions such as pneumonia.
- Heart disease. Research suggests that there may be a link between infections caused by oral bacteria and heart disease, clogged arteries and strokes. Gum disease is associated with an increased risk for heart disease; poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which in turn can affect heart valves.
- Diabetic complications. Not only are people living with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but research shows that serious gum diseases can also raise blood glucose levels and exacerbate the disease.
- Dementia. Bacteria in the mouth can enter the brain through nerve channels or via the bloodstream. Research is underway to see if this may then lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.
The eyes may be the window to the soul, but they’re also a window into your health.
Routine eye exams include looking at the blood vessels in your retina. If the retinal blood supply and blood vessels look compromised, it could be a red flag that your body’s blood vessels are not functioning to full capacity as well.
- Diabetes. Examining the back of the eye for a swollen retina or leaking blood vessels can help flag the presence of diabetes.
- High blood pressure. If blood vessels at the back of the eye are crossed or compressed, this could be an indication of high blood pressure.
- Thyroid disorders. Bulging eyes caused by cell inflammation are usually a good indicator of thyroid issues.
- Cancer. Comprehensive eye exams can detect certain types of cancer. Vision changes can point to a brain tumour, retinal bleeding can suggest leukemia, and ocular melanoma can be diagnosed through dilation and examination with a bright light and magnifier.
- Multiple Sclerosis. Dilating and examining the back of the eye to assess optic nerve can help diagnose this condition.
Eye health may even be linked to dental health.
The fact that vision deteriorates around the same time that dental health does, has started to raise awareness of links between the two. Research has started to postulate that tooth decay, mercury fillings and gum diseases are leading to deteriorating eye conditions. The moral of the story: take care of your health, starting from the top.
You also may want to consider putting a good health and dental plan in place. Canada Protection Plan offers health and dental insurance plans for individuals and families. Canada Protection Plan also provides life insurance coverage – regardless of whether you have health issues. To find out more, contact your advisor or call Canada Protection Plan at 1-877-851-9090.