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Home » What's New » New Study Shows How Your Eyes Shed Light on Your Health

New Study Shows How Your Eyes Shed Light on Your Health

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We all know why we need to wear sunglasses and sunscreen in the summer. Winter, however, can be deceiving. It's an illusion to assume that we are safe from sunburns during the colder season.

Snow acts as a powerful mirror for sunlight and magnifies the effects of UV rays which would otherwise be absorbed by the ground. As a result, the eyes are exposed to both the UV radiation bouncing back from the snowy carpet and the rays shining down directly from the sun.





If your family is skiing or snowboarding up in the mountains, you need to be even more careful! UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Another important factor to remember is that ultraviolet radiation penetrates through clouds, so even if the sun is hidden behind them, it can still damage your eyes.

Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses that absorb at least 95% of ultraviolet radiation when you go outside, no matter what time of year it is. Even though you want to look great in your shades, the most important part of choosing sunglasses is making sure they provide adequate protection against UV. Make sure the lenses are 100% UV blocking by looking for an indication that they block all light up to 400 nanometers - UV400. The good news is you don't necessarily have to pay more for full coverage for your eyes. Dozens of reasonably priced options exist that still provide total ultraviolet protection.

Another important factor in selecting sun wear is the size of the lenses. You want to make sure your glasses cover as much of the area around your eyes as possible. The more coverage you have, the less harmful radiation will be able to penetrate. Lenses that wrap around the temples will also prevent UV waves from entering from the sides.

If you like to ski or frolic in the snowy hills, you should be aware that the sun's rays are stronger at higher elevations, so you need to be especially careful to keep your eyes shaded on the slopes. In addition to sunglasses, it's a good idea to put on a wide brimmed hat that covers your eyes.

Make a point to be knowledgeable about proper eye protection throughout the year. Don't forget to wear your sunglasses.

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It's been said that your eyes are the window to your soul. Well, research is showing that your eyes are a window to a lot more than your thoughts and emotions; it can be an indicator of your overall health.  A study by UnitedHealthcare entitled, “Impact of Eye Exams in Identifying Chronic Conditions” showed that through comprehensive eye exams, eye care practitioners can identify some chronic diseases and conditions to help with early diagnosis, an earlier start of treatment and better disease management and prognosis.  

What makes the eye so special in this regard is that it is the only organ through which you can see nerves and blood vessels without an invasive procedure or surgery. Aside from known eye diseases, many other conditions have symptoms that manifest in your eyes. Sometimes an eye exam can reveal damage caused by chronic conditions and disease in other parts of your body, before you even begin to notice symptoms. For many chronic conditions and diseases, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a successful outcome, and these discoveries through an eye exam can often detect the early stages of disease.

According to the study, eye doctors identified 15% of participants with diabetes and multiple sclerosis, in addition to a number of other chronic conditions including high cholesterol, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and Graves disease. An eye exam can also detect neurological, thyroid and autoimmune diseases.

Let’s have a look at some of these conditions individually and how an eye exam by an experienced eye doctor can detect a problem from the window of the eye:

Diabetes: Diabetes can cause an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels inside the eyes become prone to leaking fluid and small amounts of blood onto the retina. Retinal vascular changes and blood vessel hemorrhaging areindicators that diabetes is present and may be affecting other sensitive organs and tissues like the kidney.

Hypertension / high blood pressure: High intraocular pressure readings obtained from measuring the pressure inside your eye are usually associated with glaucoma, but they can also indicate high blood pressure.

High cholesterol: High cholesterol puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and strokes. Rarely, it can present in the eye by a white painless ring around the outer edge of the cornea, called an arcus, which is a buildup of fat particles (not to be confused with an arcus senilis , which affects the elderly and is not necessarily associated with cholesterol). Occasionally, a dilated eye exam can detect signs of high cholesterol. In severe cases, retinal vein occlusion can develop which means the blood flowing to and from your eye is blocked, which may be related to a clot that leads to sudden vision loss.

Neurological issues: Although your eye can twitch form time to time, a persistent eye twitch combined with a twitch on the side of your mouth and/or other symptoms might indicate that a neurological disease such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's is developing. Most eye twitches have benign causes like fatigue, stress, or caffeine.

Thyroid disease: Your thyroid gland regulates your body's metabolism. A classic sign of thyroid disease is a bulging eyeball, because an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause swelling of the soft tissues within the eye socket. Since thyroid hormones are involved in hair production, an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can lead to hair loss in the outer part of the eyebrow.

Autoimmune disease: Certain autoimmune diseases can affect the eyes, including HIV, Graves Disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis.  

These are only some of the diseases that present symptoms which manifest in your eyes, but this sample does illustrate how enlightening a simple eye exam can be. Eye exams are not only to make sure your vision is up to par. Have your eyes checked regularly to ensure you are keeping your eye health and overall health in check.