Eye Health: What Your Eyes Tell Doctors About You

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The old saying goes: the eyes are the windows to the soul. Perhaps that’s true for body language, but did you know it’s also true for your medical health? Your internal health is more evident than you might think. Your optometrist is looking at more than your eye test and prescription. He or she is checking he’s checking your eyes for a window into your overall state. 

Eye Redness

Red or bloodshot eyes have multiple causes, sleep deprivation being one obvious root cause. A blood vessel can burst if you cough or sneeze too hard, and allergies can cause irritation as well. Pink eye, or fungal infections, also contribute to itchiness and redness. Your doctor may suggest rest or eye drops to help treat the problem, but an occasional prescription may be required. Sometimes some contact lenses could cause this as well. So be sure to check with a doctor or change the brand of your lenses. 

Red Spots on the Retina

Occasionally, some people develop small red dots in the retina. These spots may be an early warning sign of diabetes. They tend to be caused by high blood sugar levels. The eye’s blood vessels swell and block, eventually bursting and creating small red dots. Without treatment, these recurrent blood vessels can impair your vision and contribute to blindness long term.

Your doctor may look for kinked or twisted blood vessels, which signal a risk of stroke. Cloudiness in the eye, known as a cataract, is a normal sign of aging, but it may be sign of diabetes or tumors in younger people. 

Spots You Can’t See With the Naked Eye

If the pressure in your eyes feels intense to the point of pain, your doctor may magnify your retina to look for signs of ocular melanoma. This type of eye cancer is rare, but it’s not something we can spot with the naked eye. You must discuss any pain you feel with your doctor so you can run these types of tests. 

Some Other Unexpected Indicators of Health Issues

There are other ways the eyes act like internal health indicators. Yellowish bumps on the eyelids, or graying rings around the cornea, can signal high cholesterol. If you have an overactive thyroid, you may experience what people commonly call “bugeyes”, but doctors call “exophthalmos”. This symptom could indicate the patient is also dealing with Grave’s Disease. 

Even drooping eyelids (ptosis) can indicate our body isn’t well. When combined with pupils of different size, drooping eyelids can signal an autoimmune disease such as Horner’s Syndrome.

There’s no denying that the eyes are more than windows to the soul, they are windows into our health. Be sure to schedule regular visits to your eye doctor so you can avoid these complications!


Written by Clare Louise

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