What your eyes (and eye color) reveal about your health

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Eye Health | Saturday, May 07, 2016 - 10:00 AM

what your eyes reveal about your healthIt is often said that our eyes are the gateway to our soul. Although this may be true, your eyes can reveal much more than that. Eyes not only provide us with the ability to see, but they can also tell us what’s going on inside our bodies.

Whether these are the matters of the heart, the mind, or the nerves, our eyes have the ability to show us serious health concerns even before we start to experience any symptoms at all. Since early detection is key, make an appointment with your eye doctor and get checked.

Here are a few health issues your eyes will reveal…

Health conditions your eyes can reveal


Glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy (a disorder of the retina) are all eye health issues brought on by diabetes. But even before that, diabetes itself can be diagnosed through an eye exam.

The procedure is done by an ophthalmologist dilating the eye with drops. This allows the doctor to get a full picture of what is going on in your eye. They are looking for abnormal blood vessels, swelling and fat deposits, retinal detachment, and abnormalities in your optic nerve.

Why exactly does diabetes reveal itself in the eyes? Well, according to a study conducted by the United Healthcare, high blood sugar causes weakened blood vessels and leakage of protein within the macula. The macula, located in the center of the retina, is responsible for central vision. This can also cause a lack of oxygen and nutrients from getting to the back of the eye, reducing the quality of vision.

If caught early enough, your doctor can put you on a program to start controlling your blood sugar levels and changing your diet. This will reduce the chances of losing your vision and start treatment for diabetes much sooner.

Overactive thyroid

“Deer in headlights” and “bug eye” are expressions referring to a blank and dazed stare. But this look of the eyes can be a sign of a much more serious issue relating to your thyroid.

Grave’s disease, or overactive thyroid, is classified as an immune system disorder, which causes the thyroid to produce too many hormones. It can affect just about anyone, but mainly women over 40.

Grave’s disease comes with many symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, weight loss, an enlarged thyroid, frequent bowel movements, and bulging of the eyes. The eyes in particular reveal much of the disease. A person with Grave’s disease may feel pressure or pain within the eyes, light sensitivity, loss of vision, redden and inflamed eyes, and a gritty sensation in the eyes. Because many of these symptoms can be cross-linked with other illnesses, it is best you consult a doctor right away to determine the cause.


When we hear the word inflammation we automatically assume the worst of pain and swelling. This isn’t always true. Our bodies require acute inflammation in order to heal ourselves after an injury or from infection. Inflammation caused by an autoimmune disease tells a different tale. In diseases such as Psoriasis, Crohn’s, and Rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system doesn’t work properly and causes unnecessary inflammation. Some of these inflammatory diseases can reveal themselves in the eyes.

Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye responsible for providing blood to the retina. Some symptoms of uveitis are loss of vision, blurred vision, floating spots in your field of vision, light sensitivity, and eye pain. Uveitis is linked to many other illnesses, such as autoimmune diseases, infections such as syphilis and tuberculosis, injury to the eyes, and certain cancers like lymphoma.

Catching uveitis at its earliest can prevent permanent vision loss and help with early treatment for other associated diseases.

Multiple sclerosis

Your nervous system is essential. Damage to the nervous system affects your ability to move, see, and even feel. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a nerve-damaging illness that attacks the protective layer around the spinal cord and brain, interrupting important signals sent from the brain. This causes a variety of debilitating symptoms, including depression, bladder dysfunction, pain, spasms, and weakness.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada suggests that MS can be diagnosed through the eyes in about 16 percent of patients. This is referred to as optic neuritis, which can cause foggy vision, eye pain, and loss of vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor likely will send you to a neurologist and an eye specialist to get a full view of what’s going on behind the eyes and in the brain. By looking at the optic nerve, doctors can spot any damage and certain activity in the brain that can lead to a diagnosis of MS.

When caught early enough, steps can be taken to manage the symptoms of MS and ensure a slower progression of the illness.

What your eye color reveals about your health

Your eye color, too, can offer insight into important health conditions and traits. For example, having blue or light eyes increases your risk of melanoma and age-related macular degeneration, but these individuals are less likely to develop vitiligo. Women with light eyes are found to have a higher pain threshold as well as experience less anxiety and sleep disturbances.

Having brown or dark eyes makes you more sensitive to the effects of alcohol and increases your chance of developing cataracts, but makes you less likely to develop damage from the sun.

Yellow eyes are a symptom of jaundice, a disease of the liver, and red eyes indicate a burst blood vessel or irritated eye.

Take care of your eyes

Although your eyes’ primary function is vision, they can be a gateway to many different illnesses and diseases. A good diet full of essential vitamins, such as vitamin A from sweet potato, carrots, and spinach, for example, can go a long way to keeping your vision and your eyes healthy.

Even though you may see your reflection on a daily basis, really take the time to look at your eyes, from the size of your pupils to any unusual droopiness or swelling. These can be signs of a more serious issue. If you’re noticing any difference in your vision, don’t put off telling your doctor.

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