Your eyes are more than expressive “windows to the soul.” They are beacons for how healthy or unhealthy you might be. Doctors can see a lot in a person’s eyes including arteries, nerves and veins. Each of these elements that make up the eyes can warn of serious health conditions.
Are your eyes blurry at the end of a long workday? It may not be from staring at a computer all day. It may be due to stress. Researchers have linked stress with fluid buildup under the retina, which causes hazy vision.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be visible in the tiny blood vessels of the retina. If these vessels begin to narrow or balloon, then this could indicate problems with larger blood vessels that supply blood to your heart, brain and kidneys. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease or stroke if left untreated.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 30 million Americans suffer from this disease, but only about 8 million have been diagnosed. A simple eye exam can alert you and your doctor of diabetes. How? High blood sugar levels can show up in the weakening blood vessels in the retina, causing protein to leak into the macula (the part of the eye responsible for focusing) and blocking oxygen and nutrients from getting to the back of the eye.
After a good night’s sleep, do you wake up with aching, red eyes? The discomfort and redness might signal uveitis, or inflammation of your eye. Uveitis can be a warning of inflammation in other parts of your body. Flare-ups occur when your immune system attacks its own tissues and can be seen in inflammatory conditions like psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Do your eyes appear to be bulging? Graves disease, the most common cause of bulging eyes, causes the thyroid gland to over perform and produce hormones that attack muscles and tissues within the eye socket. This is known as hyperthyroidism.
Your optic nerve, which sits at the back of the eye and transmits details about what you see to the brain, is part of the central nervous system. This is the same nerve network that multiple sclerosis affects. Inflammation in the nerve, called optic neuritis, is diagnosed in up to 25 percent of MS cases. Optic neuritis, in addition to blurred vision and pain, can be the first sign that MS may be present.
With regular yearly eye exams, you and your doctor are better equipped to identify early warning signs of serious health issues so you can take action with treatment. Talk to your doctor about getting an annual eye exam.