What Are Your Eyes Telling You About Your Health?
By Dr. Terry Ellington
Think the only health issue you can uncover at your annual eye exam is an eye health issue? While this is a fair assumption, it’s actually very far from the truth. Consider your eyes a bellwether for other issues going in your body. Peculiarities noticed by your eye doctor can be symptoms of other health issues that present in the eyes.
Here are a few things that we spot in eyes and what they can indicate. Don’t forget to talk to your eye doctor about any issues you are experiencing.
- Iritis is painful inflammation of the iris that can be caused by blunt trauma to the eye. However, iritis may also be a result of a number of diseases and conditions such as psoriasis, Lyme disease or inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms of iritis range from pain in the eye or brow region and reddened eyes to blurred vision or headaches.
- Freckles or ‘cat paw’ shapes on the eyes have been an indication of colon cancer in a few individuals. The spots, medically referred to as CHRPE (pronounced ‘chirpy’) can be created by the same genetic mutation that causes colon polyps. If your eye doctor spots these freckles, don’t panic, they may not be related to cancer. However, your doctor may recommend that you schedule a colonoscopy.
- Plaque in the eye can indicate carotid artery disease. Cholesterol in the two carotid arteries hardens and narrows the arteries over time and can have serious health consequences, including stroke. Since these arteries also supply blood to the eyes, pieces of plaque can break off and travel to the brain or eye. If your eye doctor spots plaque, you should make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.
- Diabetes is another condition that is closely linked to eye health. According to the National Eye Institute, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Once an individual is diagnosed with diabetes, they should immediately schedule a complete eye examination to include retinal evaluation. On the flip side, leaking fluids and hemorrhaging inside the eye can be indicative of Diabetes before someone has been diagnosed with the disease.