The old adage is that “The eyes are the window to the soul,” which is supposed to tell you something about the intentions or emotions of another person. Though a steadily growing body of research is also finding that your eyes can also tell you a lot about your overall health and your future risk of some rather serious conditions.

This includes things like cardiovascular health, liver health, and potential issues with blood sugar handling, which can be an early indicator of diabetes. Left unchecked these issues can exacerbate into much more severe problems and life-threatening health problems.

Vascular Eye Health & The Brain

Research shows that there is a relationship between the vascular health of the eyes and the brain. The appearance of the microvasculature blood vessels in the eyes and the retina can be like a snapshot of what’s going on in the the brain. Damage to these blood vessels can be an early indicator of cognitive decline in the future. This includes early signs of retinopathy, which can affect vision clarity, and potentially lead to blindness if left untreated.

The Eyes Can Be An Indicator Of Diabetes

Blood sugar handling issues often show up in the eyes. This includes changes in the lens inside of your eyes, which in turn alters the clarity of your vision. Individuals with untreated, or uncontrolled diabetes, will sometimes experience a period of their vision becoming blurry before returning to normal.

A growing body of research has also identified two genes responsible for macular degeneration, which is a gradual deterioration of eyesight in the elderly that contributes to vision loss and potential blindness, which can also be found during a routine eye exam.

The Eyes Can Be An Indicator Or High Blood Pressure Or Hypertension

Hypertension or chronic high blood pressure also places excess pressure on the blood vessels in the eye. These damaged blood vessels cause hemorrhages as well as visible leaking that can be easily detected during a routine eye exam.

The Eyes Can Be An Indicator Of High Cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can be a strong early indicator of future or existing cardiovascular problems. High cholesterol tends to show up in the cornea in the front of the eye where a contact lens would reside. This can also be an indicator of heart conditions related to the gradual long-term buildup of dangerous arterial plaque.

In some of these cases, high cholesterol causes a piece of arterial plaque to buildup and break off. It then travels through the cardiovascular system only to get lodged in the small arteries of the eye. This typically happens in the rear of the eye and can lead to a sudden loss of vision in that one eye. Diagnosing it usually requires an MRI or another type of advanced diagnostics.

Multiple Sclerosis Can Affect The Eyes

Multiple Sclerosis or MS is often detected when a patient experiences sudden vision loss. In many of these cases, the physician will see a change in the color and appearance of the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This is often part of the process of confirming a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis.

Some STDS Can Also Affect The Eyes

Some sexually transmitted diseases can affect the eyes. Sometimes what starts out looking like a simple case of conjunctivitis, can actually be a sign of a more serious STD like chlamydia. This is more likely to be the case of conventional pink eye treatments like eye drops that fail to clear up symptoms.

It’s also worth noting that an uncontrolled herpes infection might also cause symptoms similar to pink eyes. There have even been a few cases of syphilis causing the pupil to develop a light shade of gray. Even HIV and its impact on white blood cells can also cause noticeable new changes in the retina of both eyes.

Some Thyroid Conditions Can Also Affect The Eyes

Some conditions affect the thyroid and similar tissue that also affect the eyes. This is often related to the way the thyroid gland in the neck affects a wide range of hormones. Particularly the hormones that also help with things like tear production, which might initially present to the eye doctor as a case of chronic dry eye.

Some thyroid conditions also affect the extraocular muscles that help control eye movement. Left untreated these important muscles can become enlarged and stiffened leading to a decreased field of vision as well as problems changing focus from one object to another.

The Eyes & Grave’s Disease

The eyes can also be linked to other conditions that affect the eyes like Grave’s Disease. With this condition increased swelling in the eyes can cause them to bulge or alter your visual quality. In some cases, Grave’s disease can persist for several months, possibly as long as two years.

Systemic Inflammation Conditions Can Show Up In The Eyes

Awareness about the presence of systemic inflammation conditions has continued to grow in recent years. Some of these conditions can cause symptoms in the eyes. This includes things like Uveitis, red and swollen eyes, which might be related to lupus.

Certain Types Of Cancer Can Also Affect The Eyes

There are even certain types of cancer that can affect the eyes. This includes things like breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma, which can affect the basal cells in the sensitive skin that surrounds the eyes. This includes conditions like Ocular Melanoma, which is a type of cancer in the cells of the eye, which can have a devastating effect on eye health and if left untreated can lead to vision loss and even blindness.

A Routine Eye Exam Can Help Catch A Wide Range Of Eye & Other Health Problems

Fortunately, many of these health conditions can be detected during a routine eye exam. Most take less than an hour and can be a key first step in preserving not only your vision but starting you on the path to early treatment of a far more serious health condition.