Body & Fitness

Eye problems: symptoms and possible causes

What to look out for when it comes to your peepers.

They say your eyes are the windows to your soul, but they may also be a way of getting an insight into your health. Eye problems can be a clue to certain conditions. Here are a few symptoms and some possible causes that you may not expect.

**Red eyes

**It could be: high blood pressure. Persistent red blotches on the whites of both eyes can be a sign of hypertension. High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the eye to expand or even burst.

Dry eyes

It could be: menopause. This causes changes in hormone levels affecting, among other things, the lubrication mechanisms in the eye. Working in an air-conditioned office or leaving contact lenses in for too long can also cause dry eyes.

Itchy eyes

It could be: allergies. Itchy eyes are often a symptom of allergies and this problem is called allergic conjunctivitis. There are two types – seasonal, which is the result of exposure to grass and pollen, and perennial, which happens all year round due to exposure to household allergens such as dust and pet hair.

Coloured rings around the iris

It could be: high cholesterol. A milky-white ring around the iris can be a sign of high cholesterol. It’s caused by a deposit of fat in the cornea and can disappear with treatment and lifestyle changes.

Watery eyes

It could be: blocked tear ducts. Tear ducts can be blocked for a variety of reasons, including having a cold. If they do get blocked, fluid in them can’t drain away and it can become infected, causing a sticky discharge and making the eyes water.

Droopy eye

It could be: diabetes. Droopy eyes can sometimes be a sign of a muscular problem or nerve damage elsewhere in the body. Diabetes can damage the fine blood vessels that support the nerves at the back of the eye. If a droopy eye comes on suddenly you should get medical help straight away – it could be caused by a small aneurysm or brain tumour.

Eye pain

It could be: glaucoma. A deep pain (which feels as if your eye is being pierced with a long, sharp object) can be a sign of glaucoma, which occurs when the eye’s drainage tubes become blocked. Untreated, it can lead to blindness.

**Three symptoms you should never ignore:

  1. Flashing lights: **These could be a sign that you have a retinal detachment. If you have this you need to see an optician straightaway.

**

  1. Distorted vision: **This means seeing straight lines as wavy or wobbly – for example the edge of a door may seem to go in and out instead of being straight. It could mean you have a serious type of macular degeneration which needs attention immediately. The sooner this condition is picked up, the better.

3. Sudden vision reduction: Most people’s eyesight deteriorates slowly, but a sudden reduction in how well you can see may be due to a variety of illnesses. These include high blood pressure, a migraine, an autoimmune condition and a brain tumour.

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