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Changes in the Appearance of the Eyes

By Christopher J. Brady, MD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, Wilmer Eye Institute, Retina Division, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Dark Spots

Dark (pigmented) spots can appear on the iris or conjunctiva. Some are present at birth, and others may appear with age. Although often insignificant, any dark spot that grows should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specialize in the evaluation and treatment—surgical and nonsurgical—of eye disorders) to make sure that it is not cancer.

Other Changes

The sclera become yellow, as does the skin, in people who have jaundice. The eyelids may droop (ptosis). Ptosis may occur in people who have myasthenia gravis and disorders that cause nerve damage. Sometimes the eyes are unusually wide open and prominent, usually because they are being pushed forward (exophthalmos). Exophthalmos can occur in people who have Graves disease.

People with these symptoms require an eye examination and a general medical evaluation. Treatment is directed at the cause.