SAN ANTONIO - The worst thing most people learn when they visit the eye doctor is it's time for new glasses or contacts. But it was during a trip to the ophthalmologist that one woman learned she had a rare disease that was causing her kidneys to fail.
"My eyes were red and hazy. It looked like the room was full of smoke," Annele Spector said. "(The doctor) took one look at my eyes and she asked, 'Do you have an autoimmune disease?'"
After a quick blood test, Spector was diagnosed with a disease called TINU -- a rare combination of an ocular disease and an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys.
"They called and said I was having complete kidney failure, through the blood work, and to go to the emergency room immediately," she said. "When you have an eye exam and they look in the eyes, they can see a whole medical history in the eyes. I had no idea."
Had she not gone to the eye doctor, Spector may not have gotten the diagnosis and may have died.
"That comprehensive, dilated eye health examination is so critical in assessing not only the eye health, but all of the vascular components and immune diseases," Dr. Arthur Medina said.
He said insurers are now big fans of the practice, but it's important to do it before a patient's symptoms become too advanced.
"The sad news is that many times when the doctor does discover the hypertension, the diabetes, it's in the late stages. If we are the ones that are discovering it, it means it's gone undiagnosed for many years," Medina said.
Spector is one of only 250 people to be diagnosed with TINU since it got its name in the 1970s. For now, the disease can be kept in check with steroids.
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