I’m a optometrist – here’s what your eyes say about YOU and when you must see a GP

EYES are often described as 'windows to the soul'.

While we use our peepers for vision, they can often help detect a lot about our wider health.

Eye tests are key for this, as optometrists can help detect changes that we might not notice ourselves.

One expert said there are five things your organs of vision could be trying to tell you and that these signs could result in a trip to the doctor.

Giles Edmonds, optometrist and Specsavers clinical services director said you should make sure to have an eye test at least once every two years.

"Or sooner if you notice anything unusual happening," he said.

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1. Red spots

While in most cases red spots are nothing to worry about, Giles said they could signal deadly conditions.

Most of the time, he said they can be caused by broken blood vessels – from something as minor as a cough or a sneeze.

He highlights though that if they stay this way for a long time, then you should get them checked out, as this can be an indicator of high blood pressure.

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"High blood pressure can mean you have a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke and it can also lead to complications with your vision. 

"During an eye test, your optometrist might also spot signs of high blood pressure, through observing the eye’s blood vessels to see if they have narrowed or started leaking. 

"Patients with high blood pressure can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy which sees the walls of blood vessels thicken, narrow and restrict blood flow.

"In some cases the retina also becomes swollen and the blood vessels can leak," Giles said.

The NHS states that if you have high blood pressure then your GP could put you on medication, as well as recommending lifestyle changes.

2. Persistent floaters

Persistent floaters aren't the same as having something in your eye and are spots in your vision that look like little grey or black specs.

They might also look like cobwebs that drift when you move your peepers.

Many people experience this, and as we get old, the jelly-like substance becomes more liquid.

But Giles said that persistent floaters can sometimes be a health emergency.

"If you notice more eye floaters than usual, a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as it could signify a tear in your retina or injury in the back of your eye.

"In some cases, it can also be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy or high cholesterol," he said.

3. Blue ring

"Some people may notice a blue-tinted ring appear around their iris, particularly as they age," Giles said.

"This is caused by cholesterol deposits in the eye. They are more common in those aged 60 and above and aren’t usually something to worry about.

"However, if these develop in the under 40s, there may be a greater risk of developing heart disease," he said.

4. Yellow tinge

Typically a yellowing of the eyes is caused by jaundice, Giles said.

This is particularly important at the moment as jaundice is a key sign of hepatitis, and cases have recently been rising in children.

Giles said that jaundice occurs when haemoglobin (part of the blood which carries oxygen) breaks down into bilirubin, which isn’t then cleared from the body.

"It is meant to move from the liver to the bile ducts, but if this doesn’t happen yellowing of the skin – and the eyes – can occur and could signify there is a problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas."

Your doctor will be able to help with jaundice and if you're an adult with viral hepatitis, then as the liver heals, the condition will usually go away on its own.

But if it's being caused by a blocked bile duct, then you might have to have surgery.

5. Blurred vision

Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out, Giles said.

He explained that poorly controlled diabetes can cause swelling of the lenses inside the eye which can cause rapid deteriorations in vision.  

"The sudden onset of blurry vision could also be a sign of stroke, particularly if combined with some of the other key signs such as slurred speech and dropping of the face.

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"Blurry vision could also indicate other eye conditions such as cataract or age-related macular degeneration too."

You should see a doctor as diabetes needs to be controlled with medication and often a change in lifestyle.

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