We already know that many diseases like diabetes and heart disease show up first in the eyes.
A new study shows that changes in the back of the eye can tell us if a child is on the path to future diseases. A new Australian study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology concludes that dangerously inactive children have narrow arteries in the retina, the back of the eye that contains the cells that send visual information to the brain.
In today's world, where children spend hours sitting in front of the TV or the computer, inactivity is a major problem. Narrow retinal arteries are a marker for increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes down the road. The study found that children with the highest levels of physical activity, one and half hours a day, had significantly wider average retinal arteries than those who spent less than half an hour a day being physically active.
The study shows us that knowledge (and an eye exam) is power. Because optometrists can detect narrow arteries in an eye health exam, we can identify the risk early enough in life and do something about it to prevent often deadly chronic diseases from showing up in adulthood. The doctor can then monitor the retina to track improvement or worsening of the arteries.
Retinal examinations are done by most optometrists during an eye health exam.