We use our eyes to see the world, but what happens when we look into our eyes?
There are many layers to the eyes so you may think that all you’ll see is blood vessels and clear liquid. This is both true and untrue. Looking into the eyes as doctors do during comprehensive eye exams can lead to discovering diseases in the body.
Just as we see things before we feel them, the eyes can present warning signs of other diseases before they start to cause symptoms in the rest of the body.
Cancer is one of today’s most dreaded diseases. It takes on many forms and can affect almost every part of the body. Once it does, if not slowed down or removed, it can spread to the lungs and brain. When this happens, survival is slim.
The survival rate for cancer depends on a multitude of factors, but mainly what type of cancer and what part of the body it’s attacking. According to the National Cancer Institute, it was estimated that in 2016 there were 1,685,210 new cancer cases of which 595,690 people died from.
However scary this disease may be, there is always hope in catching it early. Cancer is more easily treated and can be removed before it spreads to other areas of the body if caught in time.
Cancer can form in the eye and spread to the brain if not treated immediately. The eye may also indicate cancer in the brain. A swollen optic nerve may be a sign of a brain tumor. This can be detected during a standard comprehensive eye exam.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, happens when there are too many blood cells for the arteries to handle. High blood pressure can lead to various health risks and diseases such as heart disease, strokes, aneurysms and sometimes trouble with memory and other cognitive skills.
Hypertension is part of the natural aging process. Our blood vessels become weak with age, but our body does not slow down the blood cell production. High blood pressure progresses slowly over a long period of time and can go on for years without showing any symptoms.
That is unless you get regular eye exams. High blood pressure is often detected through the retina of the eye. The retina is home to most of the blood vessels in the eye. If these blood vessels seem swollen and abnormally large, your eye doctor will spot them and likely have you see your general physician for further diagnosis.
When hypertension goes untreated or undiagnosed for a long time, it can cause vision loss. The blood vessels in the retina can become overfilled and leak into the eye. This is very similar to diabetic retinopathy.
Speaking of which… the eyes can also help to diagnose diabetes. Warning signs for diabetes can be very mild that you may not even notice them. Symptoms come on quicker for those with type 1 diabetes; they can come on in a matter of days.
There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes means that the pancreas makes no insulin at all. Type 2 means that the pancreas is functional but does not produce enough insulin. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that pregnant women sometimes develop but goes away after the baby is born.
Like hypertension, the retina can provide warning signs for diabetes even if the person does not think they’re showing any other symptoms of the disease. When a person has diabetes, the blood vessels will become enlarged and porous.
It can hard to pinpoint which disease is causing this symptom in the retina. You will probably have to be tested for high blood pressure and diabetes.
The body makes all the cholesterol it needs. This type of fat found in blood cells is essential to a healthy body. However, we also consume cholesterol in some of the foods we eat. When we eat too much high cholesterol foods, we risk giving ourselves high cholesterol.
High cholesterol can build up and block your arteries causing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. It can also interfere with blood flow, leading to dangerous blood clots.
High cholesterol typically does not show any symptoms until it manifests itself as a heart attack or stroke. Certain people are more at risk to have high cholesterol such as those who smoke, have high blood pressure and those who are overweight.
Really, anyone can have high cholesterol and it wouldn’t present any symptoms. The only detectable symptom besides a stroke or heart attack would be finding small yellow deposits on the eyelids.
When cholesterol in the body is very high, it can even cause the blood vessels in the retina to harden. Blackout vision (sudden but temporary vision loss) can also be a warning sign for a heart condition with little or no symptoms.
Neurological conditions are never conditions you should ignore. The brain is the center of all activity. Neurological conditions can make the brain deteriorate too quickly to stop. When the brain deteriorates you lose your cognitive skills.
Certain eye “quirks” may be able to spot more serious neurological problems. For example, an eyelid twitch may seem like it’s just a muscle spasm or a sign of too much time spent in front of screen. Or, it can be linked to a neurological problem or trauma. Rapid and involuntary eye movements are also associated with neurological conditions.
Many people believe stress to just be a part of life. Life isn’t life without a little bit of stress. But, the truth is stress can pose a very serious threat to your whole body from your mind to your physical body.
No one experiences stress in the same way; everyone has their own versions of it and what it is that makes them stressed out. Stress can lead to mental instability, heart attacks and blisters in the eyes.
Yes, that’s right. Blisters are not just for the feet and hands. Blisters can form in the eye due to heavy emotional stress. When the body is stressed, the eyes may begin to release a blister inducing liquid that will cause blurred vision.
Unlike the other health risks on this list, you can probably take care of this issue on your own by alleviating some of your stress. Give yourself a break. If your stress continues or you feel that your mental state is not where it should be, talk to your doctor.
The eye are not just for seeing outwards. They give us access to not only understanding our surroundings but also our inner bodies. Without the eyes, a lot of these conditions would fly right under the radar.
For this reason, it is incredibly important to get a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years.