What Your Eyes Can Tell You About Your Health

If you've got a history of melanomas or are just naturally light skinned, you may not be a [...]

If you've got a history of melanomas or are just naturally light skinned, you may not be a stranger to the dermatologist. Even for those who are very careful about skin care should get checked by a skin care professional once per year. But there are skin cancer signs the your dermatologist can't see, like spots in the back of your eye. Thanks to The Weather Channel, you can look for signs of disease, whether skin cancer or stroke risk, just by looking into your eyes!


Freckles: "We can look in the retina with different lights, and see if there's a retinal nevus, a freckle on the back of the eye, just like you'd have a freckle on your skin," Brian Proctor, D.O., an ophthalmologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System in Chicago, told weather.com. "Occurrence of those freckles are fairly common; they're in 5 to 8 percent of the population. But what concerns us is when that freckle grows taller. That may be indicative of a melanoma." Just like a melanoma anywhere else on the body, these behind-the-eye freckles can spread throughout the body, and sometimes, kill. "It's one really bad disease that can only be picked up by a routine eye exam," Dr. Proctor said, explaining that healthy people under 60 need an eye exam every two to five years (more often if they need new glasses), while people older than 60 need one every year.

Eyelids: Two cancers caused by the sun, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, can both pop up on your eyelid, often the spots are so small individuals don't notice them until they're pointed out by an eye doctor. "Basal cells are localized," Dr. Proctor said. "But squamous cells can spread to your liver, your brain. You don't want to leave a slow-growing spot alone."

Eyelashes: Eyelash thinning happens with age, but it also can signal something more serious, such as a thyroid condition, Dr. Proctor said. Other skin conditions, such as rosacea, or a form of skin cancer, might cause you to lose some eyelashes as well. "These are very subtle changes on the eyes that people really don't get too alarmed about, but they should check with their doctor," Dr. Proctor said.


Retinas: Drug toxicity can appear in the back of the retina, Dr. Proctor said. One of the most common culprits is the breast cancer drug Plaquenil. "We're screening for that all the time, checking those patients every six to nine months to make sure that's doing okay," he said.

Pupils: "Sometimes, people will come in with pupils that aren't the same size," Dr. Proctor said. "We see that in people with syphilis that's not been treated." Although that sounds rare, Dr. Proctor noted that syphilis rates are on the rise. More than 15,000 people were diagnosed with this disease in 2012, an 11-percent increase over 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Photo: Eye Tracking Update)

Blood Vessels: Sometimes your eyes can be a lifesaver. Every two or three months, Dr. Proctor said he sees a patient that's had a small blood vessel blockage break off somewhere in the body, and get lodged in the eye. "[The blockage's] next step would have been into the brain, and that would have caused a small stroke," he said. If this happens to you, your eye doctor can help coordinate with your primary care physician to have your heart health examined.

Want to know what else your eyes are telling you about your health? Click here to be taken to the original story from The Weather Channel.