Bloodshot eyes are common and they occur when the small blood vessels in the transparent outer layer of these organs burst, causing blood to pool over the white of the eyes. The medical term for this is a subconjunctival haemorrhage and it can be caused by an impact to the eye, but often it has no obvious trigger. In rare cases though it’s an indication of very high blood pressure or a platelet disorder that interferes with blood clotting.
The pupils of healthy individuals are usually symmetrical, meaning they are the same size and have the same reaction to being exposed to light. If one pupil is larger than the other or one shrinks more slowly when exposed to light, this could be a sign of a health problem. For example, it may indicate an optic nerve or brain tumour, stroke, brain aneurysm or multiple sclerosis. It’s also important to bear in mind that many medications, including certain illegal drugs, can cause pupils to seem unusually large or small.
If the whites of the eye become yellow, this may reveal a disease of the liver, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. The colour changes in this way due to a build-up of bilirubin, which is a compound that is excreted in urine and bile. Elevated levels of this substance cause the eyes to look yellow. The technical term for this is scleral icterus.
Although prominent eyes can be a genetic trait, if your eyes start to bulge more than usual, this can be a sign that you have a thyroid problem. In some cases, abnormal levels of thyroid hormone can trigger an autoimmune disorder whereby the immune system attacks the tissues around the eye, making them inflamed.
The Importance of Regular Tests
These are just some of the health conditions that can be picked up by looking at your eyes. There are many other medical problems that can be detected by examining these organs. Because your eyes say so much about your underlying health, it’s crucial that you go for regular eye tests. As well as helping ensure you have the right prescription for glasses or contact lenses, opticians can detect certain medical problems that you may otherwise not realise you have.
It’s recommended that adults go for one of these tests at least every two years - or more frequently if advised to by a doctor or optician. For example, you might need to be tested more often if you have a family history of glaucoma or if you have diabetes.
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