With irregularities in the eye, doctors can recognize diabetes, some types of cancer and degenerative diseases at an early stage. Multiple sclerosis often begins with an inflammation of the optic nerve; some rheumatic diseases start with dry eyes. In Alzheimer’s patients, beta-amyloid proteins are deposited on the retina before the plaques are found in the brain.
Why this is important: For most diseases that can be diagnosed early in the eye, the success of therapy depends crucially on the condition being recognized at an early stage. Even those that can be fatal if you do not intervene in time.
Ophthalmologists can thus become lifesavers. The eyes are a highly sensitive and extremely efficient early warning system for the body. They enable doctors to look into the patient, his or her brain, the heart, the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems.
Watery Eyes Are Troublesome
Watery eyes (teardrops, epiphora) are troublesome and a common symptom. When tears run down your cheeks, there can be many reasons – in addition to sadness and joy. Excessive watering of the eyes is often an age-related disorder of the tear apparatus or caused by allergies.
Tears are an expression of sadness or joy, but they are also a necessary protective shield for sensitive eyes. With every blink of the eye, the eye is wetted with fresh tear fluid. This tear film continuously supplies the eye with oxygen and nutrients, protects the eye from dehydration, and also serves as a “lubricant.”
Regular Eye Checks Can Prevent Blindness
There is one disease that is more often recognized as cancer of the eyes: diabetes. According to surveys by the World Health Organization, the number of people affected by diabetes has risen from 108 to 422 million worldwide in the past 35 years. (1) Diabetes has long since become a widespread disease.
Patients often first find out from the ophthalmologist that they have diabetes. A swollen lens, porous, enlarged or narrowed blood vessels and bleeding in the retina – all of this shows up when the doctor performs an eye mirror.
The sooner the damage to the retina, so-called diabetic retinopathy, which is a consequence of diabetes, is recognized, the more blindness can be prevented. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Western countries. (2)
The ophthalmoscope also enables the ophthalmologist to discover other diseases. The doctor can use the instrument to examine the retina and blood vessels precisely. This allows them to look directly inside the human bloodstream in a unique way. Therefore, as an ophthalmologist, you can also see early signs of heart and circulatory diseases.
The blood vessels in the retina pulsate in rhythm with the heartbeat. Blood vessels in patients with high blood pressure are altered, similar to those in people with diabetes. Sometimes they are twisted and twisted like tiny varicose veins. Sometimes you can even see if the root of the optic nerve is swollen.
Rheumatism and MS Are Often Seen Through the Eyes
Vision problems are not always caused by malformations of the eyes. The sudden onset of temporary visual disturbances in one eye can be a signal, even if these symptoms are gone after a few minutes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that has nothing to do with poor diet or obesity. Childrenalready suffer from chronic illness. New treatment methods should help.
You can have a mini-stroke, known in the technical jargon as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). The patient should then definitely be examined more closely; otherwise, there is a risk of another, usually severe stroke.
Numerous autoimmune diseases are also associated with eye problems. Watery, burning, inflamed eyes are often side effects of rheumatic diseases. (3)
Even with multiple sclerosis, the path to diagnosis is often via the eyes. With this disease, the body attacks the insulating layers of the nerve fibers. The first relapse usually begins with an inflammation of the optic nerve, which is part of the brain. Many patients go to the doctor for vision problems and eye pain – and are then diagnosed with MS.
Because the eyes have a direct connection to the brain via the retina and optic nerve, scientists are trying to research early symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s on the eye. Reduced tear flow, decreased blinking, and inflamed eyelids could already be identified as early, but rather non-specific symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Detect Degenerative Diseases Early
In Alzheimer’s, the characteristic beta-amyloid proteins are deposited in the retina and the lens of the eye – long before they form the typical plaques in the patient’s brain. Above all, in the United States, butalso Australia and Europe, scientists are working to develop fast, comparatively cheap and non-invasive imaging methods.
In the future, it could be possible to examine patients for signs of Alzheimer’s during an eye check by using a retina scan. Experts are optimistic that the new technologies will be ready for practical use in thenext five to a maximum of ten years.
There are many reasons for watery eyes: long work on the screen, blinding sun or sadness. However, injuries and illnesses can also lead to increased tear flow.
Here are some of the causes of watery eyes and what treatment helps:
Watery eyes due to conjunctivitis
When the eyes start to water, they are usually overexcited. Triggers can be dust, sunlight and cold, but also dry heating and air. In some cases, inflammation of the conjunctiva is also to blame for the tears. Then the eye is very red, itchy and painful. Many sufferers report a feeling of a foreign body; especially in the morning after getting up, the inflamed eye is often sticky. Allergies, viruses, and bacteria are often the reason for the inflammation. Since this can quickly worsen and is also contagious, those affected should see an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Allergies cause tear problems
Many allergy sufferers complain of itchy, watery eyes. The symptoms are particularly bad in spring or summer when pollen flies through the area. But other allergens such as animal hair, mold or dust mites can also trigger allergic reactions in the eye. Some environmental substances are also suspected of causing allergic reactions in the eye. If the eyes water due to an allergy, doctors speak of allergic conjunctivitis. In contrast to an infectious inflammation, the allergic variant usually occurs in both eyes and is accompanied by an allergic runny nose.
Dry eyes can tear
Even if it sounds paradoxical at first: Dry eyes can be the reason why the eyes water more often. The following mechanism is behind it: If the moisture in the eye is too low, the eye tries to compensate for this shortcoming and increasingly produces tear fluid. The result is “overflowing1”; eyes. It should be treated by a doctor and can usually be treated well with tearsubstitutes in the form of drops or ointments. This keeps the eye moist and prevents it from drying out.
Air conditioners, contact lenses, or intensive VDU work to contribute to the fact that the symptoms worsen when the eyes are dry. The eye usually blinks every five to ten seconds to prevent it from drying out. When people are at the computer, however, they often forget to blink because of sheer concentration. The eye then reacts with increased tear production.Usually, this symptom does not appear until after work, when the eye slowly comes to rest. Therefore, be careful to keep blinking and drinking enough. If you have difficulty working on the computer, you can also use moisturizing eye drops. However, these should be without preservatives.
Ametropia strains eyes
Ametropia that is not corrected correctly or incorrectly adjusted glasses can cause watery eyes. In these cases, increased lacrimation is a response to overwork. To enable optimal visual performance, the eye must be adequately moistened with the tear film. This cleans the surface of the eye and supplies the cornea with oxygen and nutrients. The mucin layer, which gives the tear fluid a hold, lies directly on the surface of the cornea. The aqueous layer is on top of it, and the fat-containing layer (lipid layer) is on top of it. It prevents the tear fluid from evaporating and the lid from sliding over the eyeball and not rubbing against it. If the composition of the individual components is disturbed, this can either lead to the tear fluid no longer adhering to the eye as well. The eyes then become dry and start to water.
Watery eyes due to eyelid misalignment
For the eyes to stay moist, it is not just a question of the correct amount and the composition of the tear fluid. The lid must also be intact. The blink of an eye ensures an even distribution of tear fluid over the conjunctiva and cornea and thus prevents the eye from drying out. Thismechanism can be disturbed by eyelid misalignment. The eye is then no longer adequately wetted. Then the tears run. Affected people often complain of a foreign body sensation or sensitivity to light. Doctors distinguish, among other things, between inward and outward rotation of the eyelid and drooping eyelids. The causes can be hereditary factors, but also injuries or muscle problems. Then often, only surgery helps.
Clogged tear duct “overflows”; the eye
Infections and injuries can also cause the tear ducts to become clogged. Doctors then speak of a stenosis of the tear ducts. Then the eyes can tear, stick, ignite, and hurt. In some cases, surgery is required to clear the lacrimal duct.
Here are some other causes of brief watery eyes:
- Yawning: The tear glands empty due to the stretching of the eyelids.
- Robust laugh: It also leads to activation of the tear glands.
- Dust and foreign objects in the eye: These irritate the conjunctiva.
- Eyelashes turned inwards that rub against the eyeball.
- An age-related narrowing of the tear ducts.
Home Remedies and Tips When the Eyes Burn and Tear
If the symptoms do not go away, and the eyes continue to water, a doctor should be consulted. He or she determines where the causes are and what possible diseases are based. On this basis, targeted treatment can be initiated.
To relieve the symptoms, eye drops or antibiotic ointments are often prescribed. But drug therapy can also be useful for infections and irritation.
- World Health Organizationhttps://www.who.int/health-topics/diabetes#tab=tab_1
- National Eye Institutehttps://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy
- American Family Physicianhttps://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0915/p991.html