Spotting Health Issues in your Eyes

They're said to be the window to our soul, but they're also the window to your health. Doctors can see potentially dangerous conditions just by looking into your eyes.

A close look at our eyes could be all doctors need to get a glimpse at some serious problems.

"There is a lot of different things that the eyes can do that reflect general health," explains Dr. Allen Ho, MD, a Retina Surgeon at Wills Eye Institute.

Follow along as we take a look at what your eyes are trying to tell you. If they've taken on a yellowish hue, you could be suffering from liver disease, like hepatitis or cirrhosis.

Yellowish deposits on your lids could mean high cholesterol. A thin gray ring around the cornea can also mean high cholesterol, putting you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

"The eyes are really an extension of the brain," says Dr. Ho.

Even eyes that are too white can be a problem.

"Because the hemoglobin levels are too low,” says Dr. Julia A. Haller, MD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Wills Eye Institute. “Because you've got low iron and you're anemic."

Bulging eyes can run in the family, but they are also a sign of a thyroid problem known as grave's disease. Three-million Americans have it.

"Barbara Bush for example had problems with her eyes, thyroid disease," says Dr. Haller.

Have your eyelids suddenly started drooping? See your doctor right away. It could be an autoimmune disorder or even a brain tumor.

"We actually even diagnose diseases like AIDS sometimes,” explains Dr. Haller. “We're the ones that pick up that the patient has changes in the eye."

"So getting a regular eye exam is really important even if you're seeing well," says Dr. Ho.

Helping to reveal the health surprises hiding in your eyes.

Even if you're not having vision problems the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends eye exams every two to four years for those over 40.

People over 65 should get screened every year or two, but get checked out right away if you have any problems with loss of vision, pain, or redness.

Spotting Health Issues in your Eyes
REPORT #1973

EYES AND HEALTH: The eyes take in images through light entering the cornea which then focuses on whatever object is being looked at. To control the amount of light, muscles in the iris adjust the size of the pupil and then the light moves onto the lens to focus the image on the retina which sends the information onto the brain. Everything we see is interpreted by the brain. Many people have vision problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness that can easily be fixed using aids like glasses, contacts, or laser eye surgery. Many eye problems are not visible just by looking in the mirror, which is why regular eye exams are necessary. Signs that there may be a potentially serious issue with the eyes include being abnormally sensitive to light, redness or tearing, white pupils, and constant rubbing of the eyes. If you experience any of these, see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. (Source:

SIGNS: We use our eyes to see the world around us, but they could also give insight into what is going on inside our own bodies. Signs to look out for in the eyes are:

* One pupil larger than the other. Pupils of different sizes may be linked to a higher risk of stroke, brain aneurysms, and brain or optic nerve tumors.
* Constantly dry eyes could be due to an immune system disorder experienced by women over 40 years old called Sjogren.
* Bloodshot eyes may signal high blood pressure, which can cause blood vessels to twist and burst leading to red-eyes.
* Watery eyes can also signal a potential health problem. If the eyes are watery it could be a viral infection, but if the fluid is sticky, then a bacterial infection may be to blame.

HOW TO AVOID EYE PROBLEMS: With how important eyes are to people's overall health, you should make sure everything stays in tip top shape. Other than receiving regular eye exams, there are also foods that can help eyes stay healthy. Get enough carotenoids in your diet; the antioxidant is found in leafy greens like kale or spinach and has proven to prevent eye degeneration brought on by aging. More antioxidants that are good for eyesight are beta-carotene and lycopene, found in various fruits. If you're eyes are easily fatigued, eat blueberries! The berries will reduce eye fatigue. Finally, add broccoli, green peas, corn, and turnips to your diet; the lutein and zeaxanthin rich foods lower the risk of cataracts. (Source:

For More Information, Contact:

Cathy Moss
Wills Eye Institute

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