What Your Eye Symptoms Can Reveal About Your Health

Eye symptoms aren’t always restricted to eye diseases like cataracts and glaucoma– sometimes eye conditions are precursors to systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and liver disease. Having a regular eye exam is crucial to helping detect and diagnose a range of medical conditions before they start causing problems.

“The eye is a unique window into health,” says ophthalmologist Andrew Iwach, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco. “It’s the only place in the body where, without surgery, we can look in and see veins, arteries and a nerve [the optic nerve].”

Here are a few common eye symptoms and what they can reveal about your health:

Inconsistent eye tracking patterns: Eye movement is closely linked to the central nervous system. Because of this, disorders and diseases that affect the part of the brain that control the nervous system also affect the way your eyes move.

Gray ring around cornea: Also known as arcus senilis, the gray rings around the cornea are often associated with high cholesterol and triglycerides– and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Cloudy eye: Cataracts that arise in younger people may be a symptom of tumors and diabetes, or a side effect from certain medication.

Droopy eyelids: In rare cases, ptosis can indicate a brain tumor or a neuromuscular disease known as myasthenia gravis (MG). A drooping eye can also be linked to Bell’s Palsy or stroke if speech is slurred.

Disappearing eyebrows: When the outer third of your eyebrow begins to disappear on its own, it could be a signal of thyroid dysfunction.

Yellowish eyes: If the whites of your eyes have a yellowish tint you could be suffering from an array of liver conditions, including hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Bulging eyes: Abnormal levels of thyroid hormone cause tissues surrounding the eye to swell. Doctors call this condition exophthalmos, and it’s a common sign of an overactive thyroid.

Bumpy eyelids: Depending on size and color, these fatty deposits which clump together and live in the eyelid can indicate high cholesterol levels, an early onset of coronary artery disease, or skin cancer.

Different sized pupils: If you notice your pupils are different sizes, see a doctor immediately. The condition is sometimes associated with aneurysms and tumors in the neck.

Eye tics: While most eye tics are harmless eye symptoms, they can be an early indicator or neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s.