What your eyes tell you about your health?

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This week’s blog on ‘What your eyes tell you about your health’ has been contributed by Dr. Luisa Sastre, Specialist Ophthalmologist in Medical Retina.
“Do you have sleep problems?” the doctor asked while examining my eyes. “Yes, I do. How can you know that? “I replied in amazement.
Even though I slept well last night and my eyes were white and quiet, I still had that mild discomfort in my right eye that feels like a pricking sensation, right after I woke up.
The Doctor replied “I know because you have some very subtle punctate erosions on the surface of your inferior cornea. The pattern suggests that your eyelids could be open while you are sleeping and so the surface of your eye would be exposed to the environment and get dry”.
Then the doctor held my eyelashes and pulled a little bit. “You have loose elastic upper eyelids. They can easily open while you are asleep, causing the surface of your eye to get dry. That’s why you are getting this pricking sensation in your eyes, right when you wake up. As the day goes on, normal blinking will spread your natural tear over the surface of the eye, reducing the discomfort. Nonetheless, we would need to start a treatment plan to help treat this condition”.
The doctor knew very well the association between obstructive sleep apnea, floppy eyelid syndrome and the patient’s profile ; overweight, middle-aged male. The treatment recommended included not only eye lubricants, but a referral to the pulmonologist expert in sleep apnea and to the oculoplastic surgeon.
This is just an example of an association between eye conditions and other problems in any part of your body. Some of these classical associations are diabetes and hypertension. The eye doctor can tell how good or bad your sugar or blood pressure control has been, just by looking inside the eye, through that little window called the pupil. Indeed every diabetic person should have regular eye examinations, with dilation of the pupil, to assess the retina’s health.
In the same way itchy red eyes can come along with flare ups of certain skin conditions, like atopic dermatitis or rosacea.
People under a lot of stress and those with sleep disturbances like insomnia or type A behaviour (aggressive and competitive personalities) are more likely to develop a condition in the eye called central serous chorioretinopathy (CSC). CSC can significantly impair your vision. So your eye doctor once again, will not only give you appropriate advice for your eyes, but also refer you to a sleep expert or to a psychologist, in order to have a comprehensive approach to your problem.
Examples of common associations:

  • If you suffer a sudden drop in your vision and you are diagnosed with a vascular occlusion in your retina, you could be found to have high cholesterol and other cardiovascular conditions. So a prompt correction of your cholesterol levels can save you from future threats such as a heart attack and brain stroke.
  • Not being able to see in a certain part of your visual field could mean a tumor might be compressing certain structures in your brain.
  • If the whites of your eyes get yellow, you could have liver problems.
  • If your eyes are red, painful and your vision is impaired and you are diagnosed with a condition called uveitis, you could also be found to have rheumatic diseases.

The list can go on, hence the Conclusion is; visit your eye doctor regularly as he/she is much more, than just an eye doctor!!