The eyes are often called the “window to the soul,” but it may be more accurate to say they’re a window to your overall health. Symptoms of many conditions may manifest in the eyes, sometimes providing advanced notice of serious health concerns.
Red, itchy, watery eyes usually accompany allergies. Common allergens include pollen, pet dander, dust and mold, and symptoms occur in both eyes. Antihistamine eye drops are helpful in controlling symptoms. In the event of a sudden allergy attack, check to make sure no visible particles are stuck in your eye. Washing your eyes gently with clean water can help flush out irritants and ease the redness.
A gray ring appearing around the cornea of the eye can be an indicator of high triglycerides and cholesterol. Called arcus senilis, this visible pale band is made up of fat deposits and may partially or completely encircle the cornea. Although it’s common in older adults, young people with arcus senilis could have an inherited problem with high cholesterol. This familial hyperlipidemia can be confirmed with a blood test.
Most people experience a sty on their eyelids at some point in their lifetime. These red bumps look unattractive and can be annoying, but they are not a cause for alarm. A sty forms when an oil gland in the eyelid becomes clogged and most clear up within a month. However, if you have a persisting stye for more than three months, returning in the same spot or accompanied by loss of the surrounding lashes, it could be an indicator of other eye-related issues. Check with your doctor to determine the cause.
The eye health problem commonly known as cataracts is characterized by clouded lenses and loss of vision. Cataracts are often associated with aging, but it’s possible for them to form in younger people as a result of tumors, diabetes or other medical conditions. Poor diet and lifestyle choices may also play a role. If you have cataracts discuss your options with your doctor, as they can be corrected with a simple surgical procedure to replace the damaged lenses.
If your liver, gall bladder or bile ducts aren’t operating correctly, you could see the whites of your eyes begin to turn yellow. Jaundice in the eyes is accompanied by a similar tint in other body tissues caused by a buildup of bilirubin, a byproduct created when old red blood cells are broken down. If you develop this condition, seek medical care as soon as possible to rule out serious illnesses such as hepatitis.
Did you know that an eye doctor can see signs of high blood pressure and stroke risk just by looking at the blood vessels in your retina? High pressure causes these tiny vessels to twist or develop “dents”, visible to the trained eye of a doctor. While it may seem strange to look to the eyes as a predictor of heart health, these small clues could save your life.
If you notice any of these changes in eye health, it’s best to seek medical advice. Your eye doctor can determine whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are serious or will clear up on their own.
Want to learn more about your eye health?
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