What your eyes reveal about your health

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul — a truly beautiful expression. Eyes are precious, and keeping them healthy can have a great impact on the quality of your life.

I don't know about you, but I can get rather complacent when it comes to visiting the eye doctor. I tend to make an appointment when I need a new set of glasses, and I rarely think about the health of my eyes. I've come to learn, however, that I am dead wrong in that assumption and plan to make a yearly visit to my ophthalmologist a key component to my healthy lifestyle.

Why? Because it turns out your eyes may warn you of a variety of diseases that you might not even know you have. In fact, your eyes can be a window into the state of your health. Many diseases — some obvious, others less so — affect your eyes. From high blood pressure to cancer, your eyes and vision are vulnerable to a slew of medical conditions. Here are just a few medical conditions that are linked to your eyes.

Bug eyes might indicate Graves' disease

When you look in the mirror, does it look like your eyes are bugging out? Not only is this disturbing, but you might actually have what doctors call exophthalmos, a condition that may very well be a symptom of Graves' disease, a fancy name for an over-active thyroid.

"About 30 percent of people with Graves' disease show some signs and symptoms of a condition known as Graves' ophthalmopathy," notes the Mayo Clinic. "In Graves' ophthalmopathy, inflammation and other immune system events affect muscles and other tissues around your eyes."

Other eye symptoms associated with Graves' disease include a gritty sensation in the eyes, pressure or pain in the eyes, puffy or retracted eyelids, reddened or inflamed eyes, light sensitivity, double vision, or even vision loss.

In addition to the symptoms in your eyes, people with Graves' disease often experience weight loss, nervousness, and a rapid or irregular pulse.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says Graves' disease is common among the elderly and women. You don't need to freak out if this is happening to you because it is treatable. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, including bug eyes, please see your doctor.

A grey ring around the cornea

Have you noticed a grey ring around the edge of your cornea, or the colored part of your eye?

The ring, which doctors call corneal arcus or arcus senilis, is often linked to high triglycerides, which can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Arcus senilis is caused by fat (lipid) deposits deep in the edge of the cornea.

The condition does not require treatment, but if you notice a ring around your cornea, you should have a blood test to check for elevated blood lipids, especially if you are under the age of 60. High tryglycerides can be lowered through a healthy diet rich in grains, fruits, and vegetables, along with exercise and the elimination of sugar, unhealthy fats, and oils.

Sore on eyelid may indicate skin cancer

This may come as a surprise to you, but skin cancer can reveal itself on the rim of your eyelid.

A sore that doesn't heal coupled with the loss of eyelashes might mean you have basal cell carcinoma.

"Patients with basal cell carcinomas most commonly notice a reddish nodule slowly forming on their eyelid," notes the New York Eye Cancer Center. "The tumor is most commonly found on the lower eyelid, followed by the medial canthus (toward the nose) and can occur on the upper eyelid. Eyelash loss (around the tumor) suggests that a tumor is malignant."

If you experience this, do not ignore it and hope it will disappear. Instead, get to your doctor for treatment (because it can be treated) and remember that basal cell skin cancers are not usually fatal. So don't panic, but don't ignore it either because the condition can cause severe disfigurement, blindness, and even death if it reaches the brain through the eye socket.

Getting to a doctor quickly may save your eyesight and even your life.

Droopy eyelids might signal an autoimmune disease

You might have noticed that your eyelids have begun to droop, and gravity might not be the only culprit for sagging lids.

Ophthalmologists say that droopy eyelids on one or both sides can be evidence of myasthenia gravis — an autoimmune disease characterized by severe muscle weakness.

"Myasthenia gravis occurs in all races, both genders and at any age," says myasthenia.org. "MG is not thought to be directly inherited nor is it contagious. It does occasionally occur in more than one member of the same family."

Like any change in your eyes, seeking advice from your doctor can help diagnose diseases that could easily go from being a nuisance to becoming a life-threatening situation. This particular condition can be a potentially fatal disease, but with good medical treatment, you have a much better chance of survival, along with a better quality of life.