10 Things Your Eyes Say About Your Health

It's long been said the eyes are the windows to the soul but, poeticism aside, your peepers truly do reveal a lot about what's going on inside of you — as it turns out, there are many things your eyes reveal about your health. So while you may or may not be able to gaze into someone's eyes and decipher their intentions, you can quite possibly tell if they have high cholesterol, liver problems, or even if they are ovulating.

Of course, not every health hint your eyes offer can be seen with a quick glance in the mirror. Some require a visit to the ophthalmologist. Some are caught during your annual eye exam, when they make you look through those virtual reality style binoculars at the tiny house on the horizon and then jar your senses by blowing bursts of air right into your uncomfortably unblinking eyeballs. It's not exactly a trip to the day spa, but it could save your life — so there's that.

There are, however, many health indicators you can be on the look out for in your eyes. Because, as with most health conditions, early detection can make a huge difference in the overall outcome. Having said that, here are 10 ways your eye is trying to tell you something is amiss.

1. Puffy, Bloodshot Eyes

If you wake up morning after morning with achy, swollen, bloodshot eyes and said mornings were not preceded by party benders, the pain and redness could signal uveitis — an inflammation within the eye. And while uveitis in and of itself isn't necessarily dangerous, it often indicates inflammation elsewhere in the body, which is a marker for conditions ranging from psoriasis to rheumatoid arthritis.

2. A White Ring Around the Iris

Should you start to notice a milky-white ring emerge around your iris, it's likely time for two actions — a visit to your doctor and a change in your diet. That ring, also known as arcus senilis, is caused by fat deposits in the cornea. If you see it, your cholesterol level needs some serious adjustment. There is good news, though! The ring should simply fade away with medical treatment and dietary/lifestyle changes.

3. A Coppery Ring Around the Iris

Have you ever watched the movie Practical Magic? What am I saying ... of course you have. At one point, Sally says, "The moon tonight, there's a circle around it. Sign of trouble not far behind." Well, take that logic and forever apply it to matters of the iris. Should you see a ring inexplicably emerge around yours, it's a safe bet health problems will soon follow. A coppery ring around the eye is called a Kayser-Fleischer ring, and it can indicate Wilson's disease — a rare genetic disorder caused by copper build-up in the body. Left untreated, Wilson's can cause liver and brain damage.

4. Cloudiness

A clouding or seeming thickening of the lens inside the eye is almost a sure sign you've developed a cataract. Most common among the older demographic, this condition is treatable by surgery. If you are under 40 and develop cloudiness, get it checked out ASAP — cataracts in younger people are often caused by a deeper underlying condition, such as diabetes.

5. A Change in the Color of One Eye

If your eyes have always been two different colors, this is clearly not a cause for concern. That condition, heterochromia iridium, is perfectly normal. But if one of your eyes has only recently changed colors, you'll want to rule out other conditions that could be at play such as neurofibromatosis, Waardenburg syndrome, or melanoma of the iris.

6. Larger-Than-Normal Pupil Dilation

Hey, not all eye indicators are potentially problematic. As long as they are the same size, pupils that are dilated larger than normal often signal sexual attraction — or, in the case of women, ovulation. Although the precise reason for this phenomenon remains unknown, it could be related to procreation — studies have shown that cisgender men find women with enlarged pupils more attractive, so women having dilated pupils during ovulation makes them more appealing to them. Cue the propagation of the species and such.

7. Different Shaped Pupils

If your pupils are markedly different sizes or shapes, though, your eyes are probably trying to tip you off to more than sexual desire. Normally, pupils are symmetrical and respond the same when exposed to light. If yours are not and/or do not, it could be a red flag for a serious underlying medical problem. Differences in pupil size could indicate a higher risk of stroke, neurological conditions and more.

8. Dry, Red, and Possibly Flaky Eyes

To be more specific, the flakiness refers to your eyelids. If your actual eyes start flaking, you should most certainly see a doctor 'cause that can't be good. But if you have dry, red, itchy eyes and have what appears to be dandruff on your eyelids, you most likely have an infection of your inner eyelids. This leads to rubbing eyes, which leads to redness, which leads to irritation — it's a vicious cycle. The technical term for this infection is blepharitis, and while there is no cure, you can reduce irritation by putting a tiny pinch of bicarbonate soda in a cup of hot water, dipping a cotton ball in it, and running it along your lash margin twice a day.

9. Bug Eyes

OK, so "bug eyes" is obviously the vernacular term for this condition. In medical circles, though, having a bug-eyed look is called exopthalmos, and it is a hallmark of Grave's disease (more commonly known as overactive thyroid disorder). If you feel as though your eyes are bulging more than normal, head to the doctor and have a thyroid panel run.

10. Yellowing Whites

Yellowing of the sclera (the white part of the eye) is called jaundice, and it typically affects newborns or adults with poor liver function. If you don't fall into either of those categories and have yellowing in the whites of your eyes, it could similarly signal problems of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts. Some common causes of these issues include hepatitis and cirrhosis, so it's definitely worth pointing out to your doctor.

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