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Your eyes are not independent of your body, and why you should treat them as such

Your eyes are not independent of your body and you should not treat them as such. Read on to find out why.

After the announcement of the gradual easing of the COVID-19 lockdown in Lagos was made, a patient who has been experiencing blurry vision while reading called to find out if we were reopening the eye clinic immediately for physical consults. Her records on the system showed that she got her eyeglasses early in the year and was okay with them at the time. When she told me that she also needed to see her physician because she’s been experiencing fatigue, back ache and a couple of other symptoms, I told her to see her physician first and thereafter come to the clinic. The next thing she said was, “Dr Rose, why are you telling me to see my physician first? Are you afraid? Do you think I have Coronavirus?” Wow! I was expecting that. So, I laughed and explained why it was better for her to see the physician first.

Health has become so compartmentalized that sometimes we act like the different organs and systems of the body are independent and work on their own.

Be aware of this; all the organs and systems in your body are interrelated. A problem with one can affect others. More so, your eyes are like windows to the health of other parts of your body. Hence, an eye symptom can be an indication of a problem in another part of the body. For instance, yellow eyes could be a sign of a liver condition. My patient’s eye symptom (blurry vision) can be due to one or more of the following:

  • A health problem that can cause eye symptoms. E.g. blurry vision is experienced by some people when they have malaria.
  • An eye condition secondary to a health problem. E.g. diabetic retinopathy arising as a complication of diabetes.
  • A primary eye condition. E.g. myopia

Checking your eyes when you have certain untreated or uncontrolled health conditions like malaria, uncontrolled blood sugar and more can give wrong eye test results. The only time you should consider an eye exam when you are sick is if you have an eye emergency.

You may ask, why then do health professionals focus on one organ or system if all of them are interrelated? The reason is simple. There is a lot to learn about the different organs and systems in the body. It will be difficult for one person to become a specialist in all of them. Hence, the best approach is to learn a bit about all parts and then narrow it down to one and study that in detail. That way each health professional becomes knowledgeable and skilled enough to handle any condition that arises in their area of focus. At the end of it all, every dedicated health professional considers the patient as a whole when providing care and treatment. So, in addition to providing treatment tailored to individual conditions and peculiarities, different health professionals refer patients to one another and also co-manage them, if necessary.

Always remember that your eyes are not independent. They are part of a (one) whole body made up of organs and systems that interrelate with one another to keep you functioning well.

So, when you are sick and you have eye symptoms, never assume that the eye symptoms are independent of your health condition. Also, when it comes to managing eye conditions, especially chronic ones, the focus shouldn’t be on treating your eyes alone. Incorporating positive lifestyle activities that affect your general health, is beneficial for your eyes.

By Dr Rose Azuike on 3rd May 2020