There are many things you might think could save your life: an experienced ER surgeon, a fortuitously timed blood test, or reliable brakes on your car, for instance. But what about an eye exam? Most people think of an eye exam as the annual requirement to keep their glasses prescriptions up-to-date, but as one 8-year-old named Ruby proved, an eye exam can be far, far more.
Ruby, an 8-year-old from Atlanta, began struggling with terrible headaches out of the blue. They were so awful that she would awake screaming at night. Her parents brought her to doctor after doctor looking for answer, but most either shrugged it off or prescribed migraine medication. Thinking that perhaps the headaches were related to her vision, Ruby’s parents made an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam with that optometric physician. Dr. Bender did what no other doctor could—she found the problem.
Dr. Bender noticed during the examination that Ruby’s brain appeared to be swelling, and the inflammation was pressing on the optic nerve tract to cause her headaches. Emergency room tests confirmed Dr. Bender’s evaluation when they found a golf-ball-sized tumor in her head. Thankfully it wasn’t malignant, but it still required a month of treatment in the hospital. Today Ruby is thriving in second grade and has completely recovered from her surgery, but her journey is an important reminder to the medical community at large: don’t skip your eye exams!
It’s All Connected
The brain and the eyes rely on each other to function, so an exam of the eyes can provide critical information about the state of the brain. As Andrea P. Thau, O.D, President of American Optometric Association, explains, “The eye is an extension of the brain. We’re able to pick up on problems by the appearance of nerves, pupil responses, and eye tracking. I’ve picked up on brain tumors and aneurysms in my practice. Most of the time, people only have mild symptoms when they come in for an exam, without realizing something significant is going on. A comprehensive eye exam can save or change someone’s life.”