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What Does The Color Of Your Eyes Say About Your Health?

Your eye color may be just your genes in action but the whites of the eye can tell you a lot about your health. A tinge of red, yellow, or even blue each means different ailments to worry about. If it's not pure white, take a hint and get a doctor's view on how serious the issue is.

What usually first strikes you about a person is their eyes. Whether they are vivid, dramatic, or dull, eyes can leave an impression and are rightly considered a window to your soul. Can they also reveal how well your body is working, though? While the color of the iris – whether it’s a brilliant blue, a mesmerizing green, or a warm hazel – makes a quick impact, it’s the color of the whites of the eye that holds the secret to your health.

Shades Of White

The whites of the eye can be a pretty good indicator of certain ailments in the body.

The Red Eye

  • If you don’t get enough sleep and have strained your eyes, whether at work or play, red eyes are inevitable. This usually wears off in a day. If it persists, red, swollen eyes with or without discharge indicate an inflammation of the outer layers of the eye. The blood vessels in the eye dilate in response to a stimulus and cause the redness and pain. This reddishness is generally termed “conjunctivitis” as it impacts the conjunctiva in the eye. The causes could be as varied as:
    a seasonal allergy,
    a foreign particle in the eye,
    an infection due to improper use of contact lenses, or even
    a bacterial, viral, or fungal disease.1
  • The normal recourse is antibiotics if it’s a bacterial infection. If you find that it’s getting worse and there is sudden, sharp pain in the eye, blurry vision, or an inflammation, do get yourself proper medical attention promptly.2

Yellow Yellow

If you complain of fatigue, nausea, and fever, chances are your grandma will check the whites of your eyes. A yellow tinge is the most widely known symptom of jaundice. This happens due to the buildup of toxic bilirubin in the body, as the liver is unable to help excrete it all. Along with the eyes, the skin and mucous membranes also develop a characteristic yellow tinge. If you notice some of these symptoms, a visit to the doctor’s office should be your immediate move.3

Baby Blue

If you find yourself looking into the mirror and seeing blue-tinged eyes, it can be due to a variety of reasons.

  • Thinning of the top layer of the eye (sclera), an indicator of heart disease or cancer, can cause the eyes to appear bluish.4
  • Addison’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the adrenal glands, can cause the eyes to appear bluish and discolored, among other things.5
  • Genetic conditions such as osteogenesis imperfecta or Marfan’s syndrome can also cause eye discoloration bordering on a bluish tinge.6
  • A variety of medication, especially of the steroid family, can cause eye discoloration, as can anti-allergy eye drops. Likewise, exposure to silver or ingestion of silver powder, leading to a condition called argyria, is also believed to be a trigger.7

True Colors

What about the basic color of your eyes – does it mean anything if you have blue, green, or black eyes? The color of your iris is solely determined by genes. Some research indicates that those with dark irises can perform better in sports as they have better motor skills.8 Another study claims that people who have darker eyes can hear slightly better than people with lighter eyes.9 You’ll also find several hypotheses on eye color dictating character traits and susceptibility to certain diseases. For instance, people with light eyes are thought to be more prone to age-related macular degeneration than those with darker eyes.10 But the researchers are quick to point out that the evidence is not conclusive and other genetic and environmental markers may be at play. For now, your eye color is pretty much indicative of the DNA code you were born with.

What if you’ve noticed changes in your eye color of late? While the color of the iris is genetically determined by melanin pigments or melanocytes, any change in the color could be a cause for concern. A dip or rise in melanocytes may be a symptom of Horner’s syndrome or Fuchs’ heterochromic iridocyclitis, impacting iris color. It’s best to consult a doctor to also rule out diseases like glaucoma if you sense a change in color.11

The Eyes Have It All

The eyes are a very sensitive and powerful organ. Many of us, be it due to our lifestyle or a lack of awareness, take very little care of them. When working on electronic devices, it is important to take a break every 30 minutes and rest the eyes, failing which you may develop itchy, dry eyes. Tanking up on foods that help keep eyes and vision healthy is also important. Compounds such as lutein present in corn, egg yolks, and in several fruits and veggies (carrots, berries, beets, broccoli etc.) can help keep eyes healthy.12 Blinking at frequent intervals, exercising your eye muscles, and even visiting an eye doctor regularly can all go to keeping your eyes happy and healthy. Also, remember, any slight changes in eye hue can also reveal what’s going on inside your body. Do watch out for these signs and get them sorted, giving your eyes and your body the attention they deserve!

References   [ + ]

1. Leibowitz, Howard M. “The red eye.” New England Journal of Medicine 343, no. 5 (2000): 345-351.
2. Red Eye, Merck Manuals,Colby, Katherine.
3. Roche, Sean P., and Rebecca Kobos. “Jaundice in the adult patient.” American family physician 69, no. 2 (2004): 299-308.
4. Wilke, Andreas, Otto Dapunt, and Dietmar Steverding. “Bluish-Black Pigmentation of the Sclera and the Aortic Valve in a Patient with Alkaptonuric Ochronosis.” Herz 35, no. 1 (2010): 41-41.
5. The Whites of My Eyes Have Turned Blue! American Academy of Opthalmology.
6. The Whites of My Eyes Have Turned Blue! American Academy of Opthalmology.
7. Wadhera, Akhil, and Max Fung. “Systemic argyria associated with ingestion of colloidal silver.” Dermatology Online Journal 11, no. 1 (2005).
8. Rowe, P. Joanne, and Philip Evans. “Ball color, eye color, and a reactive motor skill.” Perceptual and motor skills 79, no. 1 (1994): 671-674.
9. Carter, N. L. “Eye colour and susceptibility to noise-induced permanent threshold shift.” Audiology 19, no. 1 (1980): 86-93.
10. Frank, Robert N., James E. Puklin, Christopher Stock, and Larisa A. Canter. “Race, iris color, and age-related macular degeneration.” Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society 98 (2000): 109.
11. Imesch, Pascal D., Ingolf HL Wallow, and Daniel M. Albert. “The color of the human eye: a review of morphologic correlates and of some conditions that affect iridial pigmentation.” Survey of ophthalmology 41 (1997): S117-S123.
12. Sommerburg, Olaf, Jan EE Keunen, Alan C. Bird, and Frederik JGM van Kuijk. “Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes.” British Journal of Ophthalmology 82, no. 8 (1998): 907-910.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.