There's a lot you can tell from just one eye exam.
Even though they say your eyes are the windows to your soul, your eye doc knows they're more than that. Simply by staring into your eyes, your doctor can be alerted to health conditions you may not even know about yet. Talk to your eye doctor about the health-related issues he or she may be able to spot at your next appointment.
Changes in vision are normal, especially , but problems with sight are also linked to diabetes. "Retina damage is the main cause of vision loss in diabetes," says , an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon in Beverly Hills, California. "High blood sugar levels can weaken blood vessels in the retina, reducing oxygen flow in the back of the eye." An annual eye exam can catch the condition in its earliest stages.
Light-colored circles around the corneas (the clear, outermost layer of your eye) are also called cholesterol rings because they signal — you guessed it — high cholesterol, which ups your risk for heart attack and stroke. Yellowish bumps may also appear around the eyelids, adds Dr. Boxer Wachler.
More common in women under 40, Graves' disease is a thyroid-related autoimmune condition where the immune cells attack the eyelids and muscles surrounding the eyes, causing the muscles to expand and swell. Zinc is essential for proper thyroid function, as well as eye health, says Dr. Boxer Wachler.
If you can see halos around a light source, especially in the dark, you could have a cataract. This clouding of the eye's lens results in hazy vision and is most common in people aged 50 and over, but Dr. Boxer Wachler warns that younger adults can also suffer from the condition. The good news? "Cataract surgery with modern lens implants can improve distance vision and reading vision," he says.
Allergies could be the culprit, but scratchiness is also a symptom of dry eye. While it's a common problem among older women, Dr. Boxer Wachler stresses that some people may not even realize they have this condition, which can also develop due to underlying medical conditions (like diabetes and thyroid problems). "Dry eyes are easily treated depending on severity, ranging from artificial tears to the placement of tiny plugs in the corner of the eyelids to promote lubrication."
"Loss of hair in the brow area can be a sign of low thyroid hormone levels," says Dr. Boxer Wachler. Also known as hypothyroidism, the condition slows down many of your body's functions, from the way your heart beats to how your hair grows.
Reading glasses may not be the fix if you have blurry vision in both eyes. High blood pressure is an issue that causes a lack of blood flow to the retina, which may result in impaired vision, and in extreme cases, blindness. And since the eyes contain many tiny blood vessels, uncontrolled HBP might damage the optic nerve and hinder sight.
Blurry vision may also indicate an eye health-specific condition like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects the center of your retina (called the macula) and is the leading cause of vision loss in people 65 and older in the U.S. Get regular eye exams and ask your doctor for more information about AMD and other eye-related conditions.
Another condition known as keratoconus, in which the cornea bulges out like a hernia, has similar symptoms and occurs in one in 500 people — 400% higher than in the past, says Dr. Boxer Wachler. The reason for the rise is still unclear. Look out for other symptoms, including redness, swelling, and increased sensitivity to light or glare (poor night vision, glares and shadows become issues as the disease progresses).
The experts quoted and the studies referenced in this piece are not affiliated with Bausch + Lomb. Ocuvite is a trademark of Bausch & Lomb Incorporated or its affiliates.