12/17/02 - Life Saving Exam

When you go to the doctor for an eye exam, you may expect him to say you need glasses or maybe stronger contacts. But what if he told you that you have a disease, that could kill you. It happened to one Heartland woman. October first started out like any other day for Jeanne Reynolds. But later that day her life changed, after her doctor spotted leukemia, just by looking into her eyes.
"Eyes can tell you a lot I guess," Reynolds says. "They're the windows to your soul." For Reynolds, they were also windows to her health. Reynolds suffers with cataracts and macular degeneration, so eye exams have become pretty routine. But what Dr. Larry Meyers found surprised everyone. "There was specific spots of hemorrhages, white spots back there that are pretty characteristic of leukemia." He told Reynolds to get a blood test immediately. "I was concerned because he wanted me to do it that day," Reynolds says.
After blood tests, doctors discovered her white blood cell count was too high. Dr. Meyers says many times, patients don't even know something's wrong. "The eyes can have the same pathological process that other parts of the body have," he says. "The difference is there's a clear window we can see the blood vessels and nerves."
Leukemia isn't the only disease eye doctors can detect. "You can see connective tissue diseases, infectious diseases, HIV is often detected through eye exams, hypertension, diabetes," Dr. Meyers says. Reynolds has a treatable form of leukemia, she's on medication to control it. She never thought an eye exam could detect diseases, but she says what Dr. Meyers found saved her life. "I don't know what would have transpired, something would have down the road I'm sure," she says.

Dr. Meyers says diagnosing someone with a disease doesn't happen everyday in his business. But, Ms. Reynolds story is proof your eyes can be a window on your overall health.