Healthy Living

Eyes Are the Clues to Different Health Conditions

Eyes Are the Clues to Different Health Conditions

Key Takeaways

  • It is possible to detect the development of other disease based on its effect on the eyes.

You can detect if you have diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, based on what your eyes reveal. The eyes also serve as portals for detecting eye disorders, like cataracts and glaucoma.  The symptoms of the different diseases are seen in, on, and around the eyes. Andrew Iwach, MD, associate clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of California San Francisco and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco, suggests that the eyes are very important, as it is the only place where you can see a bare nerve, bare artery, and a bare vein, without cutting the skin. The disease processes seen in the eyes are probably happening in other parts of the body too.

A large number of diseases can manifest in the eyes, and some of the symptoms include:

  • Aneurysms
  • HIV
  • Cancer
  • Rare hereditary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease

This is just another reason why periodic eye examination is important for one's health. A comprehensive eye examination is required for everybody by the age of 40-years-old, suggests Ruth D. Williams, an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist in Wheaton. People with a family history of eye diseases should give priority to eye examinations, while anybody having eye problems should not ignore a detailed discussion with the doctor either. 

Some of the manifestations in the eyes can be seen only by a trained specialist during a detailed examination.

Some of the common eye signs and their importance are given below:

Bloody eye – This may be caused by a subconjunctival hemorrhage in which numerous tiny blood vessels burst, resulting in a pool of blood in the white of the eye. This may be caused by a blow to the eye, but can be due to other reasons as well. In rare cases, subconjunctival hemorrhage may be caused by high blood pressure, or a platelet disorder, which interferes with clotting.

Bulging eyes – This is often found as a family characteristic, but may also be due to thyroid diseases. Very high or low levels of thyroid hormones may cause the tissues to swell.

Different colored eyes – This is usually inherited, and also may be due to bleeding, a foreign body, glaucoma, inflammation, Waardenburg syndrome, or neurofibromatosis.

Droopy eyelids – Often referred to as ptosis, it is a very common sign of aging. In rare cases, this is a sign of brain tumors, or neuromuscular diseases, like myasthenia gravis.

Abnormalities in pupil – Underlying medical conditions are characterized by changes in the size of the pupil, like one pupil being larger than the other, or one pupil shrinking less than the other. Some of the causes of such changes in the pupil include stroke, brain or optic nerve tumors, and brain aneurysms.

Rings on the cornea – Deposition of copper, due to medical conditions like Wilson’s disease, results in rings on the whites of the eyes. These rings are very harmless, but without treatment, the disease may be fatal.

Thickened eyelid – In some cases, thickening of the eyelid is caused by neurofibromatosis, characterized by the growth of tumors along nerve fibers.

Yellow eyes – Diseases of the liver, like cirrhosis and hepatitis, are the major causes of yellow coloration in the eyes. The change in the color is caused by the accumulation of bilirubin, a compound created by the breakdown of hemoglobin.