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10 Things About Your Health You Can Tell Simply By Looking At Your Eyes [My Tribute to Bob Costas' Left Eye]

Posted Feb 18 2014 1:35am

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The one unlit Olympic ring. The psychedelic mushrooms floating into the sky. Julia “tiny genius” Liptnitskaia . (You have to watch that video if you haven’t seen it yet!) All those poor puppies. There have been quite a few memorable moments from the 2014 Sochi Olympic games but let’s be honest, it’s Bob Costas’ Eye of Sauron that everyone is talking about. Being “wreathed in flame” is right, poor man:

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He’s not crying with joy at yet another American victory but rather because his eyes are in so much pain from the bright studio lights. Ouch.

Thanks to a “pesky viral infection” (that’s the official science name and everything), Costas finally had to break his 157 consecutive appearances covering the Olympics and give in to a disease more known for plaguing preschoolers than felling grown men. It turned out to be a win-win as Matt Lauer’s Facial Hair got to step in and interview Olympians and those people who make Russian nesting dolls (seriously that part was super interesting). And Costas not only got his own updating front-page story on The Atlantic’s site called Bob Costas Eyewatch 2014  but his own #CostasEye hashtag that launched a million wonderfully bad jokes.

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But as much as I love me a good pinkeye pun, I’ve got nothing but sympathy for Conjunctivitis Costas – both as a workaholic and as someone who once had a very tenacious eye infection. (Please to ignore the part about how I’m not on TV and therefore the only person put out by my pink eye was, well, me. It still really sucked!)

A couple of years ago, I got a viral eye infection (i.e. the kind that doesn’t respond at all to those lovely prescription eye drops) that I made worse by attempting to wear my contacts too soon. I ended up having to wear my glasses – which I hate because I think they make me look like I have one of those giant, plastic Groucho Marx noses – for 2+ weeks. Even when I worked out. Have you ever worn glasses while sweating through an hour-long bootcamp class? After having to do 5 sets of one-arms push-ups, not because I’m tough but because I needed my other hand to hold my glasses on my face, I finally broke down and bought one of those catstraps so I could literally tie them to my legally blind face. I still got my workouts in but boy was I not happy about it.

Anyhow, Costas is back in his anchor chair as of yesterday and the world is back to giggling over Instagram pics of brown water in Sochi hotels and the purple police uniforms. But his eye’s legacy lives on. So for my own personal tribute to Bob Costas’ Eye, I offer you:

10 Surprising Things Your Eyes Reveal About Your Health

You’ve heard that eyes are the window to the soul? According to Dr. Brian Francis, MD, an ophthalmologist at the Doheny Eye Center at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center, they’re also the window to your body. He explains that the eyes are unique in that they’re easily accessible and because they’re affected by so many diseases, it makes it easy to diagnose problems throughout your body, simply by peering into your peepers. Because see an opthamologist is good for so much more than just updating your contact lens prescription, the American Academy of Opthamology recommends getting an eye check-up at least once in your 20s and twice in your 30s.

Your Mental Health

It’s been known for nearly a century that people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder usually have different eye tracking patterns. (Schizophrenic patients, for example, tend to have a hard time keeping eyes focused on slow-moving objects.) But it’s only recently that doctors have been able to map those movements and use them to diagnose the notoriously tricky illnesses. Technology previously used to diagnose glaucoma is now also being used to map out visual inconsistencies that identify mental illness, Francis says. Isn’t science cool?

If You Have a Brain Tumor

Brain tumors manifest in many different ways. Some symptoms, like headaches and dizziness, you’d expect. But other symptoms you’d never find, unless you looked in your eyes, Francis says. He explains that during a normal eye exam, your doctor will check for blurry vision, improper pupil dilation (one eye dilating more than the other or remaining fixed), and optic nerve color. If your doc suspects anything amiss, you’ll likely get a referral to a neurologist for a follow-up.

If You Have an Aneurysm

A brain aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel in your brain weakens, causing one part to bulge out. If the vessel breaks, it can cause death very quickly. Often aneurysms go unnoticed until someone is in grave danger, which is why it’s great that some of early symptoms can be caught during a routine eye exam. Francis says to tell your eye doctor if you’re experiencing blurry vision, eye pain, headaches, or loss of vision. The doc will also check you for drooping eyelids (a sign that a blood vessel may have ruptured or is leaking), increased pressure in your eye, bleeding in the retina, and swelling of your optic nerve. Crossed eyes can be another sign of bleeding in the brain, possibly from an aneurysm or even a stroke.

Your Risk for Diabetes

Nearly 10% of Americans have diabetes, with many more at risk for the illness. Unchecked, the illness can cause a host of problems ranging from mild, like dizziness or numbness, to severe, such as limb amputation and even death. Which is why it’s so important for all doctors to talk to their patients about it, Francis explains. He adds that to look for evidence of diabetes your doc will check for retinal vascular changes and blood vessel hemorrhages in your eyes.

If That Eye Tic is Really Multiple Sclerosis

While most eye tics are benign, they can also be an early indicator of neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s, so be sure to mention those symptoms to your doctor, says Benjamin Ticho, M.D., a board certified ophthalmologist and a partner at  The Eye Specialists Center  in Chicago. Your eye doctor can help with early diagnoses by checking for anomalies in your retina and optic nerve.

If You Have High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, defined as anything over 120/80, is a known risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and other illnesses. But did you know hypertension can also make you blind? Arteries and veins in the back of the eye can be a predictor of heart disease in women and to a lesser extent men, explains Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the  Women’s Heart Center at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute  in Los Angeles, in an interview with ABC News. ”The idea is that all of these arteries swim in the same swimming pool and are exposed to the same cholesterol level, sugar level, blood pressure, nutrients or lack thereof, exercise and smoking,” she says.

Your Blood Glucose Levels

One surprising cause of those annoying eye twitches is hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar levels, Ticho says, which can also cause shakiness, sweating, blurry vision, and even seizures. So even it feels like just a minor annoyance, mention the tic to your eye doctor so he can figure out if you really have the condition, which is linked to diabetes as well as metabolic problems and diseases of the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Plus Francis says there’s now a new non-invasive method in development at the Doheny Eye Center for diabetics to measure blood sugar. The new device can measure your levels simply by analyzing the clear liquid inside your eye – no needles necessary!

If You Have Vitamin A Deficiency

Found in delicious foods like sweet potatoes, greens, cantaloupe and carrots, vitamin A deficiency is rare in people with a well-balanced diet. However, if you’re not a fan of your fruits and veggies you can develop night blindness and vision loss. Francis explains that your eye doctor will check the surface of your eye for damage and he adds that’s important to tell your doctor if you’re having any trouble seeing at night.

Whether or Not You Have Melanoma
Did you know you can get freckles in your eyes? And just like you can get freckles and melanoma on your skin, you can also get skin cancer inside your peepers. If you see a constant speck in your eye, ask your doctor to check it out. During a routine exam, he’ll also check your eye color and pattern to make sure everything looks normal.

If There’s Dangerous Pressure Building Up in Your Brain
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension—increased pressure around the brain—is relatively rare, but doctors are seeing more of it, Francis says. For reasons that aren’t entirely known, the condition is most common in overweight young women. And while the primary symptom is headache, it can also cause blurry or double vision, and can lead to vision loss if not corrected. Your doctor will check your optic nerve for “buckling” and other signs of increased pressure.

What’s been the most memorable part of the Olympics for you so far? Anyone else ever had a really bad eye infection? Got a good #CostasEye pun for me?

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