What your eyes can tell you about your health

22nd March 2022

WE all know that eye tests are essential for detecting changes in our vision, but what many may not realise is that they can also reveal a lot about our wider health too.

From changes we may notice ourselves, to symptoms that can only be detected during an eye test, Specsavers reveals the signs in your eyes which can indicate a concern.

Tony McGinn, Specsavers Newtownabbey Ophthalmic Optician, says: ‘Eye tests are so important. They shouldn’t be viewed as a service that can just check for changes in vision but rather an essential health check – because something could be happening which you are completely unaware of.

‘While they can detect signs of eye health conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration, they can also pick up wider health problems too and in more serious cases, even tumours. Make sure to have an eye test at least once every two years or sooner if you notice anything unusual happening.’

Red spots
‘Red spots on the front of your eyes can often be caused by broken blood vessels from something as simple as a cough or a sneeze,’ says Tony. ‘While in most cases they are nothing to worry about, if your eyes remain red for some time it is important to get them looked at as it could be an indication of high blood pressure.

‘High blood pressure can mean you have a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke and it can also lead to complications with your vision. During an eye test, your optometrist might also spot signs of high blood pressure, through observing the eye’s blood vessels to see if they have narrowed or started leaking.  Patients with high blood pressure can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy which sees the walls of blood vessels thicken, narrow and restrict blood flow. In some cases the retina also becomes swollen and the blood vessels can leak.’

Persistent floaters
Tony says: ‘Floaters are spots in your vision and usually look like black or grey specs or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. Most people will experience floaters in their vision at some point in their life – particularly as we reach older age as the jelly-like substance in our eyes becomes more liquid.

‘If you notice more eye floaters than usual, a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as it could signify a tear in your retina or injury in the back of your eye. In some cases, it can also be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy or high cholesterol.’

Blue ring
‘Some people may notice a blue-tinted ring appear around their iris, particularly as they age,’ says Tony. ‘This is caused by cholesterol deposits in the eye. They are more common in those aged 60 and above and aren’t usually something to worry about. However, if these develop in the under 40s, there may be a greater risk of developing heart disease.’

Yellow tinge
‘Typically, yellowing of the eyes is caused by jaundice,’ says Tony. ‘The condition occurs when haemoglobin (part of the blood which carries oxygen) breaks down into bilirubin, which isn’t then cleared from the body. It is meant to move from the liver to the bile ducts, but if this doesn’t happen yellowing of the skin – and the eyes – can occur and could signify there is a problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas.’

Blurred vision
‘Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out. Poorly controlled diabetes can cause swelling of the lenses inside the eye which can cause rapid deteriorations in vision.

‘The sudden onset of blurry vision could also be a sign of stroke, particularly if combined with some of the other key signs such as slurred speech and dropping of the face. Blurry vision could also indicate other eye conditions such as cataract or age-related macular degeneration too.’

For more information or to book an eye test visit Specsavers Abbey Centre.