The Windows To What Ail You

Your eyes can be subtle clues to your overall health


A trip to the eye doctor can seem mundane — that thing you do once or twice a year to tweak an eyeglass prescription and get on with your day. But don’t dismiss your eyes so casually.

“Beyond typical afflictions like glaucoma or cataracts, your eyes are harbingers of subtle clues to your overall health,” says Dr. Michelle Calder, a doctor of optometry (O.D.) and owner of Urban Optiques in Northville. The eyes are also the only part of your body where blood vessels and nervous tissue can be viewed without invasive tools, making it fairly easy to spot certain systemic health problems with a routine exam.

During your next vision check, keep in mind some of the surprising things that your eye doctor could be seeing:

Prescription drug dosage: If there are dosage issues with prescribed drugs (could someone be taking too much?), an O.D. could probably figure it out. For example, with drugs like Viagra or Cialis (used for erectile dysfunction), problems with dosage might appear as abnormally dilated pupils or the sclera (the white part of the eye) turning blue.

Sexually transmitted diseases: A whole host of STDs, including HIV/AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis, and herpes, will eventually manifest in the eyes when not controlled.

Hypertension: An O.D. can spot potential high blood pressure if (among other things) the eye’s blood vessels are tightly wound, there are bleeds on the retina, or there is a narrowing of arteries inside the eye.

Multiple sclerosis: Though notoriously hard to diagnose, multiple sclerosis in some people can show up early in the eyes when, among other symptoms, pupils react abnormally to light stimulus.

Colon polyps: Multiple brown and black lesions on the retina can indicate familial adenomatous polyposis, a form of colorectal polyp that may result in cancer of the small and large intestine.

Lung tumors: A tumor of the apex of the lung can cause drooping of the eyelid, constriction of one pupil, and the sinking of the eyeball into the eye socket.

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