It is often said that an optician can see more than just the health of your eyes and the power of your vision. Many times we have read in the press how a patient looking to get contact lenses has left the store in the back of an ambulance because her optician has spotted something, like a tumour and other serious illnesses, that were unknown to the patient.
There are many symptoms that can manifest in our eyes, and they can mean many things. Here is a look at the different systemic diseases than can have ocular manifestations.
The conjunctiva – the eyes transparent outer layer – is nourished by numerous tiny blood vessels. Sometimes these blood vessels can burst, and blood can pool in the white of the eye. In minor cases, this can occur from excessive coughing.
However, in more serious cases, such redness of the eye can be a sign of severely high blood pressure, or even a platelet disorder which can interfere with clotting.
Rings on the Cornea
Sometimes, copper deposits can form on the inner surface of the cornea, often appearing to be on the iris. This is caused by a rare hereditary disorder known as Wilson’s disease which causes copper to accumulate in tissues around the brain and liver.
The rings themselves are harmless. But if left untreated, Wilson’s disease itself can be fatal.
Our pupils can say a lot about our health. Usually symmetrical in healthy people, they are generally the same size and react at the same speed to light and dark.
However, pupils that are different in size, dilate at different speeds or not at all should be alerting emergency alarms in yours and your opticians head.
Possibilities can include a stroke, brain tumour, optic nerve tumour, an aneurysm, syphilis and even multiple sclerosis. Emergency appointments at medical centres should be arranged if you notice any of these symptoms (providing they persist).
Abnormal levels of the thyroid hormone can cause the tissue around the eyes to swell making them appear as if they are bulging. Although prominent eyes may simply be a family trait, it is worth getting checked by a doctor to ensure it is not a thyroid issue, which can be treated.
The same disease that was thought to have tortured Joseph Merrick in the 19th Century can be the cause of a thickened eyelid.
Although you wont end up resembling the Elephant Man, a thickening or deformation of the eyelid can be a sign of neurobibromatosis, which is a rare hereditary disorder causing the growth of tumours along nerve fibres. This again is a problem that should be taken to a medical professional should you have any immediate concerns.
Known as ptosis, a drooping of the eyelid is most commonly just a sign of ageing. But in rare cases ptosis can be proof of a brain tumour or a neuromuscular disease. One such disease, known as myasthenia gravis (MG) is a serious illness that weakens muscles throughout the body.
Another possible serious ailment. A yellowing of the eye can indicate a liver disease, including hepatitis and cirrhosis. The yellowing colour is caused by the build-up of bilirubin, which is created when haemoglobin breaks down which is relied upon to carry oxygen through the blood.
Optic Nerve Abnormalities
The optic nerve transmits visual information from the retina to the brain,and is visible at the rear of the eye. Naturally pink in colour, if the optic nerve turns a paler colour it can be a sign of poor blood supply, either due to pressure from a tumour or even MS.
Arterial plaques are caused when bits of cholesterol break away from plaques and travel via the bloodstream to the eye. This is caused by a disease known as atherosclerosis, which sees the plaques develop in arteries around the body.
These tiny yellow blockages can be a sign that you are suffering from severe atherosclerosis, and an ultrasound may be required to pinpoint the plaques.
?Damage to the blood vessels in and around the retina can be a sign of a number of medical ailments, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Such retinal damage, which can eventually cause blindness, can come in the forms of small haemorrhages, leaks of yellowish fluid and white patches. The latter can even be a sign of AIDS.
It is important to not worry yourself by self-diagnosing online, but if any of the above symptoms persist for a prolonged period, it wont do anyone any harm to have a quick check up at your doctors.
If you do wear contact lenses or glasses, ask your optician for another eye test. They will notify you if they see any abnormalities.
It is recommended that you have an eye test every two years which will help both make sure you can see correctly, and that no major issues are present that could turn serious. Also, some symptoms are ‘silent’, in that you wont notice them, only a medical professional will, so a regular eye check is even more important.
Short and Long Sightedness
Of course, most peoples eye complaints are to do with having poor vision, not a lingering disease or illness. Poor eyesight can cause serious fatigue, and even depression. A more permanent solution to contact lenses and glasses is laser eye treatment, which dependant on your treatment type can be painless and take just ten minutes.
World class clinics such as Freedom Vision are worth a visit to get more information, or to request an information brochure on the procedure. You can visit the Freedom Vision website by clicking here.
Arthur Wilson is a digital marketing executive working for Fabric Digital in Manchester. You can follow him on Twitter @Ayup_Arthur. Arthur’s family have worked in the medical profession for over 20 years, and it is an area he has a great interest in.