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Show 1272: How Your Eyes Reveal Your Health

Dr. Sharon Fekrat is a retinal specialist whose research shows what your eyes reveal about your brain and overall health.
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How Your Eyes Reveal Your Health

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You may have heard that the eyes are the window to the soul. That could be difficult to prove, but scientists have now shown that the eyes offer significant clues to your overall health. Most exciting is the possibility of assessing brain health based on special imaging of the retina. We speak with a leading ophthalmologist about what your eyes reveal.

What Your Eyes Reveal About COVID:

Researchers have found changes in the cornea that correlate with other symptoms of long COVID. They expect that this may allow for an earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment of a long-term health problem that affects the entire person.

What Else the Eyes Reveal:

An ophthalmologist examining the eyes can detect complications of diabetes as well as signs of hypertension. High cholesterol, thyroid imbalance and even Lyme disease also create telltale signs inside the eyes.

Taking Care of Eye Health:

The most appropriate frequency of a regular eye check-up depends upon the age of the patient as well as any chronic conditions affecting the eyes. Older people usually need annual exams, while young adults could go several years between checkups unless they are having problems with their vision.

One problem that might be more common this year is myopia, also called near-sightedness. So many of us have increased the amount of time we are using screens for classes, meetings and social visits. At the same time, we have been spending less time outside lifting our eyes from close-in screens to the far horizon. That can make it more difficult for the eyes to adjust to distant vision.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration:

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be a devastating disorder causing visual impairment. Fortunately, the treatments have changed considerably over the last few decades and become much more effective. In addition, eye doctors often recommend a dietary supplement, the AREDS formula, to slow the progression of this chronic condition. Scientific studies provide excellent evidence to back these recommendations.

Dealing with Cataracts:

As we age, the lenses in our eyes become less clear. At some point, the changes interfere with our ability to see well. Doctors have refined surgical techniques for extracting the cloudy lens. In addition, manufacturers of replacement lenses have made them more flexible and better at replacing the natural lens that is removed. How do you select the lens that will suit you best?

Treating Glaucoma:

Another eye condition that becomes more likely as people age is glaucoma. In this condition, pressure inside the eye starts to climb. Here too, ophthalmologists have better treatments than they had a few decades ago. We discuss the treatments and the best ways to apply eye drops, whether for glaucoma or for dry eyes. We discuss what the eyes reveal about the health of the neurons in the brain, along with what we should all be doing to keep our eyes as healthy as possible.

This Week’s Guest:

Sharon Fekrat, MD, FACS, FASRS, is professor of ophthalmology and associate professor of surgery at Duke University Medical School. She is associate chief of staff at the Durham VA Healthcare System.

Dr. Fekrat has been Director of the Duke Vitreoretinal Surgery Fellowship Program, and Director of Ophthalmology Faculty Career Development. She is currently Director of Duke iMIND Research Group.

Dr. Fekrat is the editor, along with Tanya Glaser, MD, and Henry Feng, MD, of All About Your Eyes.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, after broadcast on September 18. You can stream the show from this site and download the podcast for free.

Download the mp3

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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