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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- An eye exam saves a local man from a very deadly condition involving a sunken brain.

Zen McManus underwent a routine eye exam to get new contacts for traveling, little did he know that he was close to losing his life.

David Fissel, OD ofEye Central in Capitol Hill says, "When I was looking at his eye, I looked at the optic nerve and I saw a little spot where it looked like a small little hemorrhage."

Zen told Dr. Fissel that he was suffering from headaches, this gave him trouble sleeping.

Zen was immediately sent to a specialist. The hemorrhage turned out to be a condition called papilledema. This is the swelling of the optic nerve along with excess fluid in the brain. Zen underwent emergency surgery soon after.

Zen says, "That pressure ws actually causing these waves of intense pain on my head because the brain was being pushed down to the base of my skull. I didn't even know how bad it was because eventually you get into a coma and then you die."

Zen's story is a dramatic example of how eye exams can reveal far more than changes in vision. Opthalmologists says the eyes act as a direct window into your health.

Robert A Copeland Jr. MD, Chair of the Opthalmology Department atHoward University Hospital says, "When you get behind the lens you can have inflammatory processes, you can have infectious processes, you can have tumors."

Many other problems are detected within the body with eye exams.

Dr. Fissel aprovider for VSPsays, "I've detected colon cancer, septicemia, melanomas, many times high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure."

The key is often the blood vessels inside the eye. The eye is the only part of the body that contains blood vessels without a layer overtop.

Nowadays, Zen McManuslooks at life differently as he walks the streets of Capitol Hill, knowing he was on the edge of losing his life.

McManus says, "I didn't know that my doctor can actually see that when he just shines a light in my eye, that's all he did. I'm thankful for that because he saved my life."

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