Our eyes are for more than just vision; certain eye characteristics can signal serious health issues. Your eyes may be indicating that you have one of the following diseases. Be sure to look for the symptom of one deadly brain disease (page 10).
1. Yellow spots around eyes
A high cholesterol level may show itself in the eyes. | Donskarpo/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: high cholesterol
Maintaining your cholesterol is important for heart health. One signal that it’s too high involves the presence of yellow spots around your eyes, which are actually lumps of fats, including cholesterol. Both LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) are too high when these deposits appear.
Next: Are you seeing double?
2. Blindness in one eye
Blurred or double vision is common with MS. | Source: Thinkstock
Health condition: multiple sclerosis
Those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis often encounter vision problems that come and go. Inflammation of the optic nerve can cause blurred vision or blindness in one eye, and it could last between four and 12 weeks according to WebMD. Other MS symptoms include rapid eye movement and double vision.
Next: Do you want to itch your eyeballs?
3. Eye redness and pain
Psoriasis can truly affect your eyes, too. | iStock.com
Health condition: psoriasis
Depending on the severity and type of psoriasis, you may experience dandruff-like scales on your skin or more severe, cyclical flare-ups. This autoimmune disease can inflame the clear membrane covering your eyelids and the whites of your eyes, which causes itchiness, pain, and redness.
Next: Is the “pressure” getting to your eyes, too?
4. Damaged blood vessels in the retina
High blood pressure can create eye problems. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: high blood pressure
High blood pressure (aka hypertension) can create a condition known as hypertension retinopathy, which damages your retina’s blood vessels. You may experience headaches, too. If the hypertension isn’t discovered during a routine eye exam, it can lead to serious vision damage.
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5. Bulging eyes
Are your eyes bugging out? | ChesiireCat/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: an overactive thyroid
Doctors refer to this symptom as exophthalmos, but it’s more commonly known as thyroid eye disease. When the muscles and fatty tissues within the eye socket become swollen, they push the eyeball forward. Fortunately, vision is only affected in severe cases.
Next: When sugar gets involved with your eyes
6. Distorted vision and detached retinas
Blood sugar levels can affect your eyes. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages
Health condition: diabetes
The blood vessels in the eyes are sensitive. For diabetics, the extremely high blood sugar can damage those vessels, leading to eye problems and in severe cases detached retinas or vision loss. People with both types of diabetes are at risk for this condition, known as diabetic retinopathy.
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7. Sores on your eyelids
Skin cancer can also develop on the eyes. | :Artem Balatskyi/Getty Images
Health condition: skin cancer
If you develop a strange looking sore on your eyelid, it could be basal cell carcinoma. It often causes eyelashes to fall off and doesn’t go away on its own. Plus, it’s possible to get intraocular melanoma, or cancer of the eye. Most eye melanomas will develop in the middle part of the eyeball, and vision problems are typically the first sign.
Next: This rare disorder often affects the eyes.
8. Dislocated lenses
Your eyes can signal an underlying tissue disorder. | iStock.com/Alen-D
Health condition: a connective tissue disorder
A rare connective tissue disorder known as Marfan syndrome can directly affect your eyes. Dislocated lenses, as well as retinal detachment, are the most common eye problem since the connective tissue holding the eye lens in place becomes too weak. Other issues, such as astigmatism and glaucoma, are more common in those with Marfan syndrome.
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9. Retina bleeding and yellow spots
Artery problems can be detected through the eyes. | 7activestudio/Getty Images
Possible health condition: peripheral artery disease
Oddly enough, a routine eye exam can help diagnose peripheral artery disease. Affecting nearly 8.5 million Americans, PAD reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can result in gangrene or even amputation. Research suggests those with abnormalities in their retinal blood vessels have more than double the risk of developing PAD as they age. Bleeding, yellow spots, and areas of blood protruding from vessels in the back of the eye are the most telltale signs.
Next: Your eyes may reveal a deadly condition in your brain.
10. Droopy eyelids and small pupils
Eye problems can signal brain problems. | iStock.com/alex-mit
Health condition: brain aneurysms or tumors
A disease called Horner Syndrome often stems from an underlying condition, like a brain aneurysm, tumor, or spinal cord injury. The eye symptoms are a result of an obstruction in the nerve pathway on one side of the face, so the disease often only shows drooping or a small pupil in one eye.
Next: This underlying disease can be diagnosed based on your eyes.
11. Drooping eyelids and double vision
Your eyes can signal underlying illness. | samotrebizan/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: an autoimmune disease
Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease where your muscles become rapidly fatigued and abnormally weak. In more than half of reported cases, drooping eyelids and double vision were the first signs. The disease can also affect your ability to speak, swallow, and walk.
Next: Do you or your child have two different-colored eyes?
12. Eye pigmentation
Different colored eyes could signal a bigger problem. | iStock.com/Jean-philippe Wallet
Health condition: Waardenburg syndrome
Heterochromia occurs when the eyes are two different colors. This in itself is common. But it can sometimes signal a more serious condition like Waardenburg syndrome. This genetic disorder leads to deafness and can also affect the look of one’s nose. While it’s often diagnosed at birth, this is not always the case, so if your child has pigmentation problems in their eyes, see a doctor.
Next: Thanks to your eyes, you may catch this condition early.
13. An eye tumor
The eyes can link to cancer in other body parts. | American Cancer Society/Getty Images
Health condition: metastatic cancer in other body parts
Tumors from other body parts can spread to the eye, so a routine eye exam may be the first time the cancer is discovered. Most commonly, lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women make their way to the eyes. Patients with a history of cancer should have their eyes checked routinely.
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14. Oil pockets above the eyelid
Your eyes can say a lot about your skin. | studiokovac/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: oily skin
Sometimes, those with extremely oily skin can develop oil pockets above the eyelid, known as chalazions. These pockets are painless but can be uncomfortable; they can be surgically removed. Luckily, they’re not dangerous.
Next: They can (obviously) reveal a lot about this.
15. Cloudy vision
Of course, eyes can say a lot about your vision. | utkamandarinka/iStock.com
Health condition: cataracts
This one is a bit obvious, but your eyes can say a lot about your vision. If your eye looks cloudy and appears to have a film over it, it is likely a cataract. Cataracts cause blurred vision, and they can develop over a number of years. Thankfully, they’re correctable with surgery. They’re common and typically appear in older people.
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16. Cotton spots or blood spots on the retina
Your eyes can signal HIV/AIDS. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images
Health condition: HIV/AIDS
About 70% of patients with advanced AIDS have some type of eye disorder. The eyes are affected most commonly in the form of retinopathy. This occurs when cotton spots or blood spots appear on the retina. About 30% of patients experience CMV retinitis, a serious eyes disorder involving flashing lights or blurred vision, which leads to vision loss. Occasionally, the retinitis can cause a detached retina.
Next: Most people don’t know that this disease can develop on your eyes.
17. ‘Cold sores’ around the eyes
Herpes can also develop in the eyes. | iStock.com/lofilolo
Health condition: herpes
Herpes typically develops on the mouth or genitals, but ocular herpes is also a form of the disease that most people don’t know about. Caused by herpes simplex 1, it’s a recurring virus that leads to “cold sores” around the eyes. Eye redness, irritation, and swelling can also be signs.