What Your Eyes Are Telling You about Your Health

People say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but we say they’re actually the windows to your health.

The fact is, your eyes can reveal any number of health problems. And in many cases, they can be the first signs of a serious complication.

While eye care professionals know specifically what to look for during an eye exam,  simply looking at yourself in a mirror can reveal a lot about your overall health.

Here are 11 things your eyes could be telling you and your doctor about your health:

High Cholesterol

High Cholesterol
Small yellow bumps around your eyes and on your lids could be a sign of high cholesterol. These bumps, known simply as “cholesterol bumps,” are fatty deposits called xanthelasma palpebrarum. This condition seems to affect women slightly more than men, and usually isn’t present until after the age of 30.

Diabetes

Diabetes
It’s not uncommon for people who have diabetes to not realize they are diabetic, even though diagnosis could be as easy as a trip to an ophthalmologist. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition caused by complications of diabetes, and would be easily spotted by an ophthalmologist. If your family has a history of diabetes and you’ve noticed changes in your vision, have a your eye physician check your eyes for manifestations of diabetes.

Myasthenia Gravis

Ptosis
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that causes fatigue and muscle weakness. It is often marked by ophthalmic indicators that include double vision, strabismus, a condition in which the eyes do not line up in the same direction, and ptosis, drooping of the upper or lower eyelid.

Brain Trauma

Pupils
A person’s pupils can tell you a lot about the brain and whether or not it’s functioning properly. If you ever notice that your pupils are different sizes or that they are dilated and not responding to light, you should visit a doctor immediately. Anisocoria, unequally sized pupils, can signify aneurysms, migraines, tumors, or bleeding in the skull. Pupils that are abnormally dilated or do not respond to light can be a sign of a concussion or other traumatic brain injury.

High Blood Pressure

Headache
High blood pressure can cause damage to the retina and retinal circulation. This condition, called hypertensive retinopathy, can lead to headaches, vision problems, arteriolar changes, and retinal hemorrhages.

Jaundice

Jaundice
Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin, conjunctival membranes (whites of the eyes) and mucous membranes due to increased levels of bilirubin, the byproduct of red blood cell breakdown, in the blood. Jaundice can indicate hepatitis, liver disease, liver cancer, leptospirosis, or an obstruction of the biliary tract.

Graves’ Disease

Graves' Disease
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease that commonly affects the thyroid, though it can also cause the muscles and fatty tissues around the eyes to swell. This swelling of the tissue of the eyes can cause them to bulge, a condition interchangeably called exophthalmos or proptosis.

Wilson’s Disease

Wilson's Disease
Wilson’s disease, also called hepatolenticular degeneration, is a rare genetic disorder in which copper builds up in the body’s tissues, causing neurological symptoms and liver damage. A common sign of Wilson’s disease is the presence of Kayser-Fleischer rings, dark or brown rings that form around the edge of the iris.

Multiple Sclerosis

Optic Neuritis MRI
Multiple sclerosis, known simply as MS, is an inflammatory disease that damages the protective myelin sheaths covering nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Vision problems are one symptom of MS, with up to 50% of MS patients developing an episode of optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve. Optic neuritis is the presenting sign of MS in 20-30% of patients.

Cataracts

Cataracts
Cataracts are a fairly common condition in older people in which the clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. Cataracts can be corrected with surgery, but when they are present in younger patients they can be a sign of a more significant health problem, including diabetes and tumors.

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer on the Eyelid
Everyone knows about the dangers of extended exposure to UV radiation. Too often, though, people fail to realize that our eyes are just as susceptible to sun damage and skin cancers as the rest of our body. Basal-cell carcinoma, a skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer. Although it is rarely metastatic or fatal, it can be destructive and disfiguring.

While the health problems mentioned above are some of the more common diseases and disorders that might affect a person’s eyesight, this is by no means a finite list. Any number of maladies, big or small, can cause vision problems. Always consult a physician or ophthalmologist if you notice sudden changes in health or vision.

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