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Our Eyes Reveal Much about Our Overall Health: Eye Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. But our eyes can also tell us much about our general health.  During an eye exam, doctors can find clues to what's going on in our eyes – and in the rest of the body.

"Some eye diseases have no symptoms, and even if one has excellent vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people have regular eye exams starting at age 40," explains Dr. Mark Fleckner, a Garden City ophthalmologist. "This is the age when the first signs of eye disease may start to occur. Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will advise the patient on when to have follow-up exams." Anyone who has diabetes, other risk factors for eye disease or additional vision issues should see an ophthalmologist sooner and may be advised to have eye exams more often, Dr. Fleckner adds.

Some patients are surprised to learn that they have another health problem, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a thyroid condition during a routine eye exam. The eye is the only place in the body where doctors can noninvasively see blood vessels.

Since many illnesses like diabetes and hypertension affect the blood vessels, physicians can spot a disease before patients are aware of it.

Certain symptoms affecting the eyes should not be ignored. Although it's human nature to hope a problem will get better on its own, that usually is not the case. Dr. Fleckner says a visit to an eye doctor is in order if you experience any of the following:  

  • Yellow eyes.  A yellowing of the white part of the eye can be a symptom of hepatitis, a liver disease.
  • Bulging eyes.  If someone's eyes suddenly appear to be bulging, it may be a sign of a thyroid problem. Bulging eyes can also be a manifestation of other diseases, such as a tumor behind the eye.
  • Red or bloodshot eyes.  Red eyes don't always mean you didn't get enough sleep. They can be a sign of an over-active thyroid, allergy or an eye infection. 
  • A sty or other growth on or near the eyelid.  Any growth should be checked by a doctor. Certain eyelid or skin cancers can look like a sty or pimple.
  • Dry eyes.  This condition often affects people when they get older or experience hormonal changes. But dry eyes can also signal an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Watery or tearing eyes.  This can be a sign of corneal disease, a blocked tear duct, or an eyelash or lid problem.
  • Double vision.  When double vision occurs, it could be related to thyroid disease, a brain problem, a tumor or another disease.
  • Seeing halos around lights.  Halos may indicate cataracts, glaucoma, corneal disease or contact lens overuse.
  • Dots and spots.  People may see tiny objects that look like small dots, pieces of string or amoeba-like objects. They can develop with normal aging.  However, if they appear suddenly as hundreds of small black particles, it can be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment.

Garden City / Fresh Meadows Opthalmologist Dr. Mark Fleckner Facebook YouTube interview with Fresh Meadows Opthalmologist Dr. Mark Fleckner

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