Things your eyes say about your health

The expression, “the eyes are the windows into the soul”, is not as far off as some would like to think. In fact, the eyes can tell a lot about the health of an individual. Though other areas of the body such as skin, nails and hair can indicate various health issues, the eyes are the one area which reveal the largest percentage of health issues in the body. Doctors love examining the eyes as they show over thirty symptoms of health conditions. Here are some things that the eyes say about your health.


Red spots, which are dots of blood in the eye, may be signs of diabetes. These red spots are caused when blood sugar level are too high causing the blood vessels to block and swell up. The swelling can cause the tiny blood vessels to burst in the retina which then is seen in the eye as red spots. Bloodshot eyes can also be evidence of pinkeye, infection, severe cold or exhaustion.


Are your eyes itchy, swollen and red? These are often a clear indication of the individual experiencing allergies. Allergies can be caused from dust, pet dander, food and pollen. You doctor will be able to suggest you some over-the-counter medication or prescribe you stronger medication depending on the severity.

Burning eyes, blurry vision while using a computer

You might be a workaholic, and you definitely have "computer vision syndrome" (CVS). The eyestrain is partly caused by the lack of contrast on a computer screen (compared with ink on paper) and the extra work involved in focusing on pixels of light. What's more, by midlife the eyes lose some of their ability to produce lubricating tears. Irritation sets in, adding to blurriness and discomfort.

More clues: Does the problem worsen in the afternoon (when the eyes tend to become drier)? Is it worse when you're reading fine print (more eyestrain)? People who wear glasses or contacts tend to be bothered more by CVS. "Sometimes the problem is made worse by a fan positioned so it blows right in the face," the AAO's Iwach adds, noting that the air further dries tired eyes.

What to do: Reduce glare by closing window shades, investing in a computer hood, or checking out antireflective coating for your glasses (if you wear them). Simply tinkering with the contrast of your screen can help, too. White areas should neither glow brightly like a light source nor appear gray. Flat-panel LCD display screens (like those on laptops) cause less eyestrain than older models. Keep reference material close to the same height as your monitor, giving your eyes a break from having to refocus so much.

Red, itchy eyes

Many things can irritate eyes, but itchiness accompanied by sneezing, coughing, sinus congestion, and/or a runny nose, usually screams "I'm allergic!" When the eyes are involved, the trigger is usually airborne, like pollen, dust, or animal dander. An eye allergy can also be caused by certain cosmetics or ointments. Some people, for example, are allergic to the preservative in eye drops used to treat dry eyes.

What to do: Staying away from the allergic trigger is the usual treatment. Antihistamines can treat the itchiness; those in eye-drop or gel form deliver relief to the eyes faster. If the problem turns out to be an allergy to eye drops, look for a preservative-free brand.

Autoimmune diseases

Dry eyes are a clear sign of autoimmune disease. However, let’s not jump to conclusions. If you sit in front of a computer all day, dry eyes can also be a side effect. Medications such as sleeping pills, anti-anxiety or pain killers may also come with the side effects of dry eyes. 

Torn Retina

If you’re seeing specks or flashes of light, this may be a sign of a torn retina. In this case, a torn retina will need medical attention as soon as possible, specifically is the flashes or specks are paired with the loss of peripheral vision. If you’re experiencing a loss of peripheral vision, this would indicate a detached retina – either way, you’ll need a doctor. 


Sometimes, by seeing an optometrist they’ll be able to detect certain cancers such as ocular melanoma, which is rare cancer detected through examination. If you’re experiencing pressure or pain that isn’t caused by cancer, the doctor may need to check for a brain tumor. 

There are numerous diseases that can be detected through the eyes. That being said, going in for an annual eye examination is well worth the investment for your health.  

Bumpy yellowish patches on the eyelid

What it means: Xanthelasma palpebra, the medical name for these tiny yellow bumps, are usually a warning that you may have high cholesterol. They're also called "cholesterol bumps" -- they're basically fatty deposits. More clues: Sometimes people mistake these bumps for a stye, but with xanthelasma, there tends to be more than one bump and they're quite small.

What to do: See your doctor or a skin or eye specialist. A diagnosis can usually be made by sight. An ophthalmologist can also examine the eye and see deposits; for this reason, in fact, sometimes high cholesterol is first diagnosed during a routine eye exam. The problem usually isn't serious and doesn't cause pain or vision problems. A physician will also evaluate you for other signs of coronary artery disease.