Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Eye health centre

This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

What your eyes say about your health

We look at conditions that have an effect on the eyes, from colour changes to swelling.
By David Freeman
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Are the eyes “windows to the soul”, as the ancient saying has it? Perhaps, but they’re also portals through which one can glimpse signs of health problems -- not only eye disorders like cataracts and glaucoma, but also systemic illnesses like diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Sometimes the signs of these diseases are visible in, on or around the eyes long before symptoms appear.

The eyes are “the only place in the body where you can see a bare nerve, a bare artery, and a bare vein without doing any cutting. And the disease processes we see occurring in the eye are probably occurring in the rest of the body,” says ophthalmologist Dr Andrew Iwach.

The list of systemic diseases that can have ocular manifestations is a long one; in addition to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it includes aneurysms, HIV, cancer and rare hereditary diseases. This list is one reason why regular eye examinations are recommended.

Adults should have an eye test at least every two years, or more frequently if advised (eg if there is a family history of eye problems). People shouldn’t wait until they experience symptoms to have their eyes examined because many eye problems are silent, meaning they cause no symptoms.

Some ocular manifestations of systemic disease can be seen only by a trained specialist during the course of an eye examination. Others are plain for all to see. Here are 10 of the most common eye signs and what they might be saying about your health:

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
Put your best face forward
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
woman in bikini
Get ready for swimsuit season
How to help tension headaches
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
woman with cucumbers on eyes
How to banish dark circles and bags
probiotic shakes
Help digestion
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting