Eyes are not just the window to the soul but also offer a glimpse into one’s overall health. Eye exams check far more than vision. Changes in the eyes can be signs of vision problems as well as various health problems. If you know what to look for, you can actually observe these signs for yourself.
Because they contain delicate structures like nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues, the eyes can serve as an early warning system to let you know if you need medical attention. For example, an eye doctor may spot early signs of more than 20 health conditions, including diabetes, thyroid disease, heart disease, and even cancer, just by observing the eyes.
Practitioners who specialize in this are called iridologists. In iridology, this alternative health practice involves examining the iris of the eye to diagnose health problems. Iridologists use eye maps that contain various parts of the iris that correspond to parts of the body. As a diagnostic tool, iridology is widely considered a pseudoscience as it still lacks quality research studies compared to other evidence-based medicine.
Since the majority of diseases are often difficult to detect at an early stage, it is, therefore, crucial for patients to catch these diseases early through an eye exam. Below are some eye symptoms that may indicate specific health issues.
A white ring around the cornea
This condition, called corneal arcus, is a deposition of fats on the outside edge of the cornea or the clear, curved surface at the anterior of the eye, which allows it to focus. These fat deposits cause a gray-white line or a complete ring to appear around this part of the eye. For people above 40, this is usually not something to worry about, but it could indicate dangerously high cholesterol for those under this age.
The blurring of vision commonly means a need for eyeglasses, but it can also signal a more serious illness like diabetes. In a 2014 study, researchers found that 73% of diabetic patients reported blurred vision. On some occasions, an ophthalmologist may be able to detect diabetes during an eye exam, even before blurring occurs, by finding irregularities in the retina.
When tiny blood vessels in the eyes leak blood and other fluids due to too much sugar in the blood, blurring of vision happens. The progression of this condition, called diabetic retinopathy, may be prevented by laser treatment to help seal leaks and remove unwanted new blood vessels. If not treated, it can lead to blindness.
The bulging of the eyes, which doctors call exophthalmos, is a common sign of Grave’s disease. This autoimmune disorder is associated with hyperthyroidism, where patients may experience red and itchy eyes. In more serious cases, ocular muscles swell, so the eyes tend to protrude or bulge.
Aside from the bug-eyed look, people with hyperthyroidism experience muscle wasting, nervousness, and rapid or irregular pulse.
Yellowing of the eyes like an old paper may indicate a sign of a rare liver problem called jaundice. This condition occurs when there are high levels of bilirubin, a yellow compound produced as a result of the breaking down of red blood cells in the blood. Normally, it is the liver’s role to filter the cells, but when there is a problem in this organ, bilirubin builds up in the blood and causes the eyes and the skin to turn yellow.
Hepatitis, another liver-related disease, may cause yellow eyes. Just like jaundice, damage in the liver causes bilirubin build-up in the blood.
Yellow eyes caused by elevated bilirubin do not interfere with vision. When the levels of this compound in the blood return to normal, the yellowing normally disappears.
Yellowish patch or bump on the white of the eyes
Pinguecula is a yellowish patch or bump on the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white of the eyes. In a small percentage, this abnormal tissue growth may be pre-cancerous, but most are seen in people who had high levels of exposure to the sun. This is kind of similar to a callus on the skin.
In a 2013 study, researchers looked at UV light’s effects on the eye and found that pinguecula and other eye damage could be prevented by wearing specific lenses.
Drooping eyelids are a common sign of aging. However, they can signal a more serious condition called myasthenia gravis, where the immune system attacks and weakens the muscles. This disease affects not just the eyes but also the face and throat muscles, making it difficult to chew, swallow, or speak. Its treatment includes blood filtration, medications, and thymus gland removal.
An eye twitch is an involuntary blinking of the eyelid. This abnormal blinking may happen to many people, especially middle-aged and older women. One of its most common causes is ocular myokymia, when a person is tired, stressed, or had too much caffeine.
When it comes to other symptoms, an eye twitch could be a signal to different brain problems, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, bell palsy, hemifacial spasm, and brain damage due to inflammation or stroke.
Difficulty seeing in low light might indicate a need for glasses or it could be cataracts. Night blindness is a natural part of aging and is rare among younger American adults. In unusual circumstances, this could signal the person is not getting enough vitamin A.
Early signs of night blindness can be treated with supplements or a vitamin A-rich diet. Foods high in this vitamin include sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, spinach, and beef liver.
In conclusion, eyes can reveal the fact that problems exist in the body even though there are no usual symptoms yet of the disease. It helps obtain quicker medical care before serious damage occurs. However, it is very important to take note that eye symptoms alone are usually not enough to diagnose a disease, infection, or other serious medical condition.