8 Ways Your Eyes Warn You of Disease or Distress

Your eyes can be windows to your health, not just your soul

This isn’t an article about iridology, but rather a list of eight easily identifiable symptoms that affect your eyes in different ways and may indicate a far more serious underlying condition. Once you know what to look for, your eyes could, quite literally, save your life.

The Twitch

Have you developed a sudden and annoying twitch or ‘tic’ in one of your eyes, It is typically an eye muscle or eyelid spasm or movement that you can’t control. Doctors may refer to the condition as blepharospasm and it tends to happen more in your upper eyelid. The lid moves every few seconds and it is usually just for a minute or two.

A twitch is most often associated with stress and is a tell-tale sign that your body and your nervous system are being overwhelmed. Your twitch could be the result of fatigue, stress, caffeine, alcohol, smoking, light sensitivity, or medication, especially drugs used to treat psychosis and epilepsy

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It can also, in rare instances be a precursor or symptom of something more serious. Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, brain damage, Bell’s palsy, and dystonia can cause a twitch. Most twitches will resolve on their own, but if it persists or causes you discomfort, book yourself in for a visit to your doctor.

In extremely rare cases, a twitch may be accompanied by another that affects the corner of your mouth, usually on the same side of your face, Usually, the cause is an artery putting pressure on a nerve and the condition will require medical attention.

Blurred Vision

Sadly, as we age, so do our eyes and their ability to focus. Blurred vision is mostly associated with this aging process and is easily corrected with glasses. In some cases though, blurring can be an indicator of something far more serious. Damage to, or problems with your cornea, retina, or optic nerve can lead to a rapid onset of blurred vision.

Diabetes is commonly associated with the condition. An August 2014 study found that 73% of diabetic patients sampled reported blurred vision, and it isn’t just diabetes. Rapid onset can also be an indicator of a stroke. Called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) this type of stroke lasts less than 24 hours and can affect one or both eyes.

Migraines, Keratitis (inflammation of the cornea), and certain autoimmune conditions can also result in blurred vision or the blame may lie with conditions that can affect our eyes, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration. If you’re suffering from blurred vision, make an appointment with an optometrist sooner rather than later,

Framing your Iris

Notice a white ring forming around the outside of your iris. This one is a little tricky because it is also a natural part of the aging process. If it becomes really noticeable over a short period of time, then it can be an indicator of excessively high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, two factors closely linked to increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Most of us don’t spend much time looking that closely at our eyes and if you do notice these rings it may simply be the natural aging process, but is still worth checking out, especially if it’s accompanied by the next item in our list.

Xanthelasmas

While not strictly speaking affecting the eye itself, these yellow raised patches tend to form around the eye. Xanthelasmas are soft, cholesterol-filled raised “bumps” that develop under the skin, on or around your eyelids, and close to your nose. These yellow raised deposits are a side effect of having high levels of lipids in your blood.

If these cholesterol deposits present prior to the age of 40 years, they require a prompt screening by your physician to rule out any acute underlying inherited disorders of lipoprotein metabolism.

Eye Floaters

Small almost translucent little pieces of ‘lint’ that seem to float across your field of vision. They may look like black or gray specks, strings, or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes and appear to dart away when you try to look at them directly. Refocus and they start their trip again, seeming to drift across your eyes until they disappear from view.

Again, these are caused by age-related changes as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers inside the vitreous tend to clump and can cast tiny shadows on your retina. The shadows you see are called floaters.

This symptom can be an indicator of something far more serious. If you experience an increase a sudden increase in the number of floaters you see, this could be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment. If the floaters are accompanied by a loss of peripheral (on the sides) vision or flashes of light in the affected eye, consider making an emergency appointment.

Pingueculas

These raised yellowy-brown patches occur on the whites of your eye and are the result of too much sun. Typically they occur where the colored part of the eye meets the white part of the eye. They usually appear on the side closer to the nose, are present in both eyes, and are relatively permanent.

As these are usually permanent and can cause irritation to the eye they’re best avoided. We suspect they’re caused by ultraviolet light so protect the eye from ultraviolet radiation by wearing certified wrap-around sunglasses and brimmed hats while outdoors. Some prescription glasses also have lenses capable of protecting the eyes from ultraviolet rays.

Jaundice

Probably the best-known symptom of a disease that can be diagnosed easily from the eyes. When the whites of your eyes (the sclera) turn yellow, you’ve got jaundice. The yellowing is a result of bilirubin, a yellow substance that forms when red blood cells break down.

That process is totally natural and in healthy individuals your liver filters bilirubin from your blood and uses it to make a fluid called bile, which you eventually excrete. If, however, your liver develops a problem, then the bilirubin can accumulate in your body, turning the whites of your eyes yellow.

That yellowing is referred to as looking jaundiced and it can indicate a serious medical condition, including hepatitis, gallstones (the most common cause of jaundice), malaria, sickle cell anemia, liver and gallbladder cancers, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis of the liver, commonly caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Book a doctor’s appointment.

Broken Blood Vessels

Although probably the most scary-looking symptom exhibited by our eyes, bloodshot and red eyes are most often the result of simply overworking the eye or rupturing a blood vessel from a coughing fit, or straining excessively. Don’t panic, you don’t have an eye disease and you’re not going to bleed out.

While the result can look terrifying, it will usually clear of its own accord and isn’t necessarily a reason for panic. If this occurs frequently you may consider discussing potential lifestyle changes with your doctor or optometrist.

Call your doctor if the blood doesn’t go away in 2 to 3 weeks or if the bleeding is accompanied by pain or vision problems. Also seek medical assistance if you have more than one burst vessel, or if the blood is anywhere inside the colored part of your eye (iris).

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PATIENT ADVISORY

Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

Editors Choice8 Ways Your Eyes Warn You of Disease or Distress
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Medika Life is a digital Health Publication for both the medical profession and the public. Make informed decisions about your health and stay up to date with the latest developments and technological advances in the fields of medicine.

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