Local woman credits basic eye exam for saving her eyesight

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PITTSBURGH —

Your eyes can tell doctors a lot more than how good your sight is.

They can provide a vision of your health and reveal if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or even cancer.

Kitty Savel credits and eye exam for saving her sight.

“I had no pain, no outward symptoms,” she said.

Savel was diagnosed with lupus 10 years ago, and with medication, it was in remission.

However, on a follow-up visit, her doctor discovered something troubling.

“He found something suspicious in my corneas,” said Savel.

Savel went to Dr. Deval Paranjpe, an ophthalmologist at Allegheny General Hospital, who spotted a crescent-shaped ulcer in her eyes.

She diagnosed Savel with peripheral ulcerative keratitis, or PUK, a condition that can melt away the cornea within 48 hours.

“It's a very difficult thing to fix if it goes unchecked and it could actually lead to the loss of the eye itself, so it's a very scary thing to look in and see and even scarier to have,” said Dr. Paranjpe.

It’s common with people with autoimmune disorders and revealed that Savel had a hidden flare-up of lupus.

“I never would have thought lupus could have affected my eyes,” said Savel.

“The eye is the window to the health to the rest of the body,” explained Dr. Paranjpe.

Using special equipment, ophthalmologists can get a unique glimpse into the body and diagnose diseases.

Abnormalities in the retina could mean high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke or even cancer.

A swollen optic nerve can indicate a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis.

Inflammation in the anterior chamber could possibly be an infectious disease.

“Every part of the eye can give you different clue about the health of your body,” said Dr. Paranjpe.

Savel treated her PUK with drops and increased her lupus medication.

Now she has her sights set on staying healthy.

“I thank God every day that my disease was found in time,” she said.

Paranjpe recommends getting an eye exam every two years, and those older than 50 should get their eyes checked annually.