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Eyes - What they can tell you about your health

Updated on May 25, 2010

There is an old saying that "The eyes are the windows of the soul". We should have another saying that says "The eyes are the windows of Health" as they can often indicate a sign of disease elsewhere in the body.

  • Bags under the eyes may be caused by loss of skin elasticity due to age.
  • A blind spot in the visual field also known as scotima may be a sign of a problem with the retina or damage to the optic nerve, such as that caused by glaucoma.
  • Bloodshoot eyes may be a response to an insufficient supply of oxygen in the cornea, and can also be a common consequence of eyestrain, fatigue, and improper diet, especially the consumption of alcohol. A bloodshot appearance can also result from deficiencies in Vitamins B2 and B6, and the amino acids histidine and lysine.
  • Constant blurry vision can be caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism.
  • Recurring tendency to periodic blurring can result from inadequate supply of the light-sensitive pigment in the eye called visual purple, which is composed of vitamin A and protein.
  • Dark circles under the eyes is usually caused by iron deficiency and can also indicate a liver or kidney malfunction, or chronic allergies.
  • Eyes that are red, swollen, and/or watery could be an indication of allergies.
  • A drastic difference in the sizes of the pupils can indicate a tumor somewhere in the body.
  • Droopy eyes are often an early sign of myasthenia gravis, a disorder in which the muscles of the eye weaken.
  • Dry eyes generally stem from a lack of vitamin A. It can also be caused by certain drugs such as antidepressants, beta-blockers and marijuana.
  • Dry eyes coupled with dry mouth, dry skin, dry mucous membranes, the inability to tear, a Vitamin A deficiency, and sometimes lowered immune response are all signs of Sjogren's syndrome.
  • Eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry or irritated eyes, sensitivity to light, double vision, and afterimages can be experienced if you work at computers every day.
  • Inability to tolerate light or exposure to light that hurts the eyes may be associated with irritation or damage to the cornea, acute glaucoma, or uveitis (inflammation of the Iris/ciliary body/choroid). It can also be a symptom of developing measles.
  • Itchy eyes and/or tired eyes may be due to allergies, eyestrain, fatigue, infection, and an inadequate supply of oxygen to the cornea and outer eye tissues.
  • Mucus in the eyes may be the result of allergies, head colds, or an infection, i.e. conjunctivitis.
  • Periodic blurring of vision may be a manifestation of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Pressure in the eyes may be an indication that you are experiencing vitamin C deficiency.
  • Puffiness around the eyes can be caused by allergies or excessive consumption of salt.
  • Reading difficulties and protruding or bulging eyes may indicate a thyroid problem.
  • Small specks moving slowly before the eyes are bits of cellular debris floating within the eye and are known as floaters. They eventually become less noticeable and are considered benign. The elderly and nearsighted people are most likely to complain of floaters.
  • Swollen eyes may be due to fatty deposit in eyelids as well as fluid accumulation.
  • Styes/eye inflammation can be the result of allergic, viral, and/or herpes-type infections.
  • Thinning eyelashes or complete loss of eyelashes may be the outcome of allergies in general, eye makeup allergies, exposure to environmental toxins, hypothyroidism, eye surgery, a poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, and trauma.
  • Ulcerated eyelid is an indication of a scratch on the eyelid that has become infected.
  • Watery eyes may be a symptom of the common cold.
  • Yellowing of the eyes from jaundice can be a sign of hepatitis, gallbladder disease, or gallstone blockage.

Some of the above eye abnormalities can also be experienced if you are taking anti-infective agents, diazepam (Valium), medications used for psychotic disorders (i.e. haloperidol, some anti-depressants, quinine, and sulfa drugs). Other drugs that may cause eye problems are adrenocorticotropic hormone, anti-gout medication, anticoagulants, aspirin, corticosteroids, anti-diabetic drugs, diuretics, antihistamines, digitalis preparations, arthritis medications, marijuana, nicotinic acid, streptomycin, and tetracycline.

Please be aware that wearing contact lenses for more than 24 consecutive hours as well as using extended-wear lenses may leave you open to ulcerative keratitis - a condition in which the cells of the cornea are rubbed away by the contact lens which can lead to infection and scarring. If not properly treated, this condition can cause blindness.

Consult your health care provider if you develop any of the following conditions: change in pupil size; eye pain or pain on eye movement; impaired vision; intolerance to light; known exposure to gonorrhea or chlamydia; or swelling, tenderness or redness around the eyes.

Remember, you only have one pair of eyes - keep them safe and keep them healthy.

Sources: 1989 16th Edition Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary; 1997 2nd Edition Prescription for Nutritional Healing by J.F. Balch, MD and P.A. Balch, CNC; 1992 9th Edition of Healthy Healing by L.G. Rector-Page, ND & PHD; 1998 Dr. Atkins' vita-Nutrient Solution by R.C.Atkins, MD..


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    • barefootdoctor profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Many thanks for your feedback....if you have concerns, please check with your health care provider....have a great day....

    • lauralolita profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      That's so interesting to hear about dark circles. In my ignorance, I just assumed it was from poor sleep, but apparently not! Great hub!


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