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What your eyes say about your health

Riddle Hospital February 4, 2014 Wellness Articles
It’s been said that eyes can be the window to someone’s soul, but it turns out they can also be the window to your health.

“Many people don’t know that the eyes can actually be a helpful indicator in detecting health issues,” says Aaron Cohn, MD, ophthalmologist at Riddle Hospital. “An appointment with your eye doctor can reveal more than just vision problems."

The eyes are the only place on the body where it’s possible to see nerves, veins, and arteries without any cutting, giving your doctor the unique opportunity to notice symptoms of serious health issues before they progress. Below are some of the surprising ways that your eyes can elude to some serious health issues.


Small blood vessels located at the back of the retina could be a sign of diabetes. Since diabetes is one of the leading causes of adult blindness, take note of this symptom and talk to your doctor about controlling your risk or, if you’re already diagnosed, how you can manage your life with diabetes.


Dry, red, itchy eyes are a pretty regular symptom of seasonal allergies, but if they persist even after your other symptoms disappear, it could be a sign of an allergic reaction to something else. Perfumes, cosmetics, ointments, and eye drops are all common culprits.

Autoimmune diseases

It sounds odd, but patients with autoimmune diseases like an overactive thyroid often present with a symptom called ‘bulging’ eyes. Patients with this symptom don’t blink very often, and sometimes may not notice any inflammation until it is advanced.

Liver disease

When the whites of an eye take on a yellowish hue, it could be a sign of a buildup of bile or jaundice, which is an indicator of liver disease. Patients with jaundice might notice a yellowish tint to their skin, as well. If you have yellowed eyes, a blood test can help diagnose the reason.

High blood pressure

Silver or copper-colored arteries in your eye can be a sign of high blood pressure. If your ophthalmologist notices this, take note. Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and tobacco use can help reverse the condition. Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk for heart attack or stroke. Learn more about the risks of high or low blood pressure.

Make sure you’re getting your eyes checked at least once a year, either during a visit with your primary care doctor or an ophthalmologist. If they notice any alarming symptoms or indicators of anything serious, they’ll refer you to a doctor for care.