What Can Optometrists Tell About Your Overall Health

Every now and again, we all experience odd little eye symptoms.  Our vision is cloudy or blurry.  Our eyes are red, itchy or sting.  More often than not, enough hydration and a good night of sleep is enough to bring things back to normal.  Many of the most common eye symptoms are the result of exhaustion, dehydration or strain from overuse.

However, there are some symptoms that your optometrist can spot that should not be ignored.  Through them, your eye doctor can tell a surprising amount about your overall health, even in conditions that have nothing to do with your vision.

Consider the following symptoms and what they can mean about your health:

  • Red eyes – There are many reasons your eyes can look red. The most common are eye strain from long workdays, inadequate sleep, or exposure to bright sun or strong winds.  That said, if your eyes are red without one of these reasons to explain it, it could be a symptom of glaucoma, diabetes, or high intracranial pressure.  If your eyes are frequently red, it’s a good idea to have them checked.
  • Red eyes with swelling – This is most commonly the result of lack of sleep and fatigue. It can easily be mistaken for an infection as they can look similar.  This symptom is also common among people who regularly use eye drops meant to take redness out of the eyes.
  • Dry eyes – Dry eyes come with a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as burning and itching. Rubbing dry eyes can place them at risk of damage and can cause the eyelid to wrinkle and/or sag.  Dry air and exposure to wind can make eyes feel dry, as can seasonal allergies. In rare instances, sensitivity to light combined with excessive dryness can be a sign of Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • A white circle around your iris – Usually, this is just a sign of aging. However, in younger people, this can be a symptom of high triglyceride and high cholesterol levels.  It may also be an indicator of a higher stroke or heart attack risk.
  • White spots on your cornea – This is a relatively common occurrence among contact lens wearers and can be an indication that an infection is present in the cornea. If these infections don’t heal, they can lead to a corneal ulcer. People who wear their lenses for long periods of time, who wear their lenses past their expiry date or who reuse their lenses more often than they should are at an especially high risk.
  • A yellowish spot near your iris – Called a pinguecula, a yellowish spot or bump on the white part of the eye, near the iris, typically occurs in elderly people. It’s a symptom of conjunctiva aging. In younger people, it can happen to those who spend a great deal of time in the sun, as it can be brought on by regular extended UV exposure. It sometimes occurs in people frequently exposed to smoke, dust and wind.
  • Yellowed in the whites of your eyes – This yellowing is typically the result in a reduced liver and bile duct function. Therefore, it’s the top sign of hepatitis and other liver diseases.

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