The Eyes: Often the Window into One’s Health

By: Alethia Pantazis, MD, board-certified Ophthalmologist who specializes in anti-aging, regenerative medicine, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastic, hormone optimization, and sexual wellness.

The eyes are able to give helpful clues regarding the status of the health of an individual. Findings can often be seen with the naked eye and often bring individuals to the doctor with new unwanted “cosmetic” findings. These can include thinning eyebrows, dark circles around the eyes, bags or laxity of the skin, abnormal vessels (angiomas, spider veins), or growths (both cancerous and non-cancerous). There are also numerous findings that can be seen on a dilated exam and are often not noticed by the patient until the disease process is more chronic and severe such as hypertension, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and even neurologic disease.

Thinning Eyebrows

Thinning eyebrows can be related to hormonal deficiencies, typically the most nasal part of the eyebrow is controlled by testosterone, the center is estrogen and the lateral portion is controlled by the thyroid. When levels are too low the hair in these areas may thin.  It is important to check your levels of these hormones to confirm that they are all optimized. Even once optimized, it can be difficult to regrow eyebrow hair in these areas. Natural, high-quality pigments can be used to re-create the look of natural eyebrows. This is sometimes referred to as micro-blading or shading and is a semi-permanent way to give the appearance of new eyebrow growth.

Eye dryness, bulging eyes, double vision, and eyelid drooping

These symptoms may all be associated with thyroid disease, auto immune diseases such as Grave’s Disease and Myasthenia Gravis, or other hormonal dysregulation. It is important not to overlook these findings and to be evaluated by your health care provider if symptoms develop. Often, once the underlying condition is treated, the symptoms associated with it significantly improve.

Dark Circles

Dark circles under the eyes can be an inherited trait. The skin around the eyes is very thin and vessels underlying the skin can be more visible in certain skin types. They can also be a sign of anemia (a low level of iron in the blood) or allergy (seasonal or food-related). When this is related to an allergy typically, avoiding the allergen will help. When anemia is the culprit, eating foods rich in iron or supplementing with iron-enriched vitamins has the potential to help. For all of these conditions, there are treatments to aid in building collagen and elastin under the eyes to thicken the thin skin and allow for more coverage of the vasculature in this area. These treatments can include platelet rich plasma (PRP), radiofrequency, microneedling, and opus plasma treatments. Certain hyaluronic fillers, although none are FDA approved to treat this area, have been shown to aid in reducing the appearance of dark circles. Each of these treatments can be done alone or in combination. Please remember that these treatments should be performed by a licensed and trained professional who understands potential risks.

Eye Bags

Eye bags above or below the eyes can be associated with the normal aging process, fat herniation, and can be heightened in some individuals, especially those facing heart, liver, or kidney disease. These conditions can cause or worsen how fluid collects in this area.  A full workup involving the organs may be necessary to rule out any underlying conditions. There are surgeries that can improve the visual field and appearance of these unwanted bags. There are even non-surgical options to tighten the skin in this area such as radiofrequency, eye creams with growth factors, opus plasma treatments,  and other resurfacing energy-based devices such as lasers.

Angiomas and Spider Veins

Angiomas and spider veins can be found on or near the eyes but can also affect any area of skin. These may be present on the face head and neck in healthy women. If in excess it can be a sign of hormonal dysregulation or excessive sun damage. These are much less common in men and if found can often mean that there is an abnormality in the liver.  Lasers can be used to remove these lesions. There are several lasers that are able to treat these but care must be taken when these are near the eye. Proper eye protection and an experienced clinician are needed to ensure eye safety.  

Cancer and Abnormal Growths

Cancer and abnormal growths can occur nearly anywhere on the body and the eyes are no exception. When these suspicious growths are found one often must undergo surgery to remove them.  This is not an uncommon area for cancers. In fact, the eyelids are often forgotten with sunscreen application. Certain glasses can amplify the sun’s rays onto the lids and increase the risk of these growths. It is important to wear UV protective sunglasses when outdoors both to protect eye health and the health of eyelid skin. There are special eyelid sunscreens that are formulated for this area of the face and help to prevent cancers and break down collagen and elastin which can result in unwanted laxity around the eyes.

Macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy

Macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy are the leading causes of blindness. These chronic eye diseases have been linked to vascular and brain health including one’s risk for dementia.  Keeping the eyes healthy often means keeping up on one’s overall health and vice versa. Regular eye exams are important and often exam findings may aid us in finding underlying treatable conditions.  In addition, maintaining normal hormone levels and a healthy lifestyle can improve our overall health and appearance.

Dr. Pantazis is a board-certified Ophthalmologist who specializes in anti-aging, regenerative medicine, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastic, hormone optimization, and sexual wellness. She is passionate about treating diseases to maintain a natural, youthful lifestyle and appearance.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please reach out to Vitality Medicine at 352-804-2397