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It’s been said the eyes are the “window to the soul.” That may be true, but they also offer a glimpse into your overall health. Here are seven telltale signs of disease your eyes may reveal.

Droopy eyelids: Though eyelids often droop with age, it could be a sign of something more serious. Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disease that causes weakness in the muscles. The hallmark of myasthenia gravis is weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. Certain muscles such as those that control eye and eyelid movement, facial expression, chewing, talking, and swallowing are often, but not always, involved in the disorder. The muscles that control breathing and neck and limb movements may also be affected.

Bug Eyes: Eyes that bulge out are a sign of Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism. In this condition, the thyroid is overactive and is characterized by weight loss, a rapid pulse, and nervousness. In more serious cases, Grave’s disease can cause corneal ulcers, blurry and double vision, and restricted eye movements.

Gray cornea ring: A gray ring around the cornea is called arcus senilis and is an indicator of high triglycerides and cholesterol. High lipids put you at risk for stroke and cardiac arrest, so anytime this gray ring shows up, blood tests are in order.

Usually high cholesterol doesn’t cause eye problems and the typical person with high cholesterol doesn’t develop the condition.

Cataracts: Cataracts appear as clouding in the lens of the eye. It usually occurs in older people but younger people can have them too. In many cases, tumors, diabetes and certain medications cause cataracts to form in younger individuals.

AIDS: In some cases ophthalmologists can spot the presence of AIDS through an eye exam. One red flag is a retina that appears severely inflamed with white “cotton wool” spots. A more serious condition occurs when an opportunistic infection with the cytomegalovirus occurs. The cytomegalovirus destroys retina cells and if left untreated can lead to blindness.

Cancer: Not just cancer of the eye. Cancers elsewhere in the body can spread to the eye, most commonly breast cancer and lung cancer but also cancer of the kidney, prostate, thyroid and GI tract. Lymphomas and leukemia can also spread to the eye.

Diabetes: It’s not uncommon for people to have diabetes and not be aware of it. However, an ophthalmologist can often see telltale signs in the retina, such as tiny hemorrhages and yellow deposits of fat. This condition is diabetic retinopathy.

Some people with this condition may show blood vessels that swell and leak, thus the hemorrhages. In some cases, abnormal new veins grow on the retina surface.

Obviously, regular eye exams are important for people with hindered or failing vision. But when you consider the numerous serious conditions that can be spotted with an eye exam, even those people blessed with perfect vision should make yearly eye doctor appointments a priority.

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