Mercy Research Reveals Eyes as Window to Overall Health

May 14, 2012



Dr. Shachar Tauber 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A trip to get your eyes checked could alert you to a bigger health issue, and a recently completed research study at Mercy Springfield proves it.  

Mercy Physician Dr. Shachar Tauber just presented interim research results to doctors from all over the world, at the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.  

The study was conducted at four Springfield-area Mercy Clinics. Primary care doctors took pictures of their patients’ eyes using the Optos wide field camera – a highly specialized camera through which doctors can see 200 degrees of the retina, rather than 45 degrees like normal cameras. The images were then transferred through Mercy’s electronic health record to board-certified Mercy ophthalmologists.

The study showed how screenings can be made more convenient for patients. Instead of traveling long distances to see a specialist, patients can go down the street to their primary care physician’s office. This means patients are more likely to benefit from specialists, because it is more convenient for them.

 “This cutting-edge technology can uncover a medical condition before it can cause widespread damage. Early treatment is often the key to a successful outcome,” said Dr. Tauber.

Even without knowing anything else about the patient, ophthalmologists were able to identify health problems. The eyes really are a window into a patient’s overall health; it’s the one place where doctors can examine a patient’s blood vessels from outside the body.

“If you’re seeing the disease in the blood vessels of the eye, it’s happening in other places in the body,” said Tauber. 

Of the 745 patients screened by the Optos camera, 15 percent had problems that needed to be immediately addressed and were urgently referred to other doctors for treatment. Fifty patients had diabetic retinopathy, but for others the concerns ranged from melanoma to retinal detachments. Doctors have learned they can identify other health concerns through the Optos camera exam as well, like multiple sclerosis and brain tumors.  

“Nothing to it. It’s just like taking an eye exam,” said diabetes patient Roland Thompson. “Maybe five minutes is all it took.” This exam doesn’t even require the use of drops or dilation to be effective. 

The ARVO conference is focused heavily on science and cutting-edge technology. Few researchers get a chance to present their findings there. The final study results should be published this autumn. 

While this quick screening test does not replace a thorough eye exam, it’s exciting to know what specialists can uncover in just a few minutes.

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