Your Eyes Are The Windows To Your Kidneys
“The kidneys and the eyes share a very close relationship as many diseases simultaneously affect the eyes and the kidneys”
‘The eyes are the ‘windows to the soul’- many take this rather abstract statement literally. Some half-baked philosophers also claim that they can understand a person’s innermost thoughts and feelings just by looking into their eyes for a period of only seven seconds!
Lovers swear by the myriad of emotions conveyed by a single glance of their loved one’s eyes and reams and reams of precious paper have been dedicated to this theme. Unfortunately, real life is very different and there is nothing romantic or fanciful about disease, be it the eyes or the kidneys.
Eyes Provide A Wealth Of Information
From a medical perspective, the state and appearance of the eyes provide a wealth of information as to what ailments are affecting an individual as many diseases are associated with eye disorders and a simple eye examination can unveil them. Likewise, the kidneys and the eyes share a very dose relationship as many diseases simultaneously affect the eyes and the kidneys. Also, many kidney diseases can be diagnosed by changes in the eyes.
One of the most common features of kidney disease is swelling of the eyes or eyelids. Swelling of the eyes is seen in patients with kidney disease associated with a decrease in urine production. In those who have protein losses in the urine (called nephrotic syndrome), eyelid swelling is noted, especially early in the morning.
MPGN And Drusen
The importance of a detailed eye examination and the pitfalls of omitting this in a routine physical examination is illustrated by an embarrassing revelation, recently published in medical literature: Since 1855, eye-specialists have been aware of a condition called ‘drusen’ – a common feature of age related eye damage and since 1961, kidney specialists have been aware of a disease called MPGN that affects younger individuals.
However, it was only in 2001, that kidney and eye specialists connected the fact that young patients with MPGN invariably had drusen. Today, the combination of MPGN with drusen is well established and has entered textbook teaching! But it took 40 years to make this connection, because the kidney specialists neglected to look into the eyes of their patients.
Diseases And Eye Examinations
Older people often need to undergo angiograms to study the blood supply of their heart. One method that contributes to kidney damage after an angiogram is showers of cholesterol that clog the blood vessels of the kidneys. This cholesterol shower occurs simultaneously in the eyes and can be easily diagnosed by a simple eye examination.
Diabetes is by far the commonest cause of kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease is almost always preceded by diabetic eye disease where the retina can be damaged leading to blindness, it not treated in time. Many a time, the presence of diabetic eye disease helps clinch the diagnosis of diabetic kidney disease, without resorting to invasive investigations like kidney biopsy. Hence. all diabetics are advised frequent eye examinations.
Changes In The Retina Is A Warning Sign
High blood pressure (or hypertension) affects the kidneys as well as the eyes. Evidence of hypertensive eye changes in the retina is a warning sign which alerts a physician to target tighter blood pressure control, This helps delay or avoid hypertensive kidney disease. Autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus (also called SLE or Lupus) and Wegener’s Granulomatosis cause kidney disease as well as eye disorders like conjunctivitis, scleritis and retinal damage.
Genetic Eye-Kidney Disorders
Plenty of genetic diseases have manifestations in the kidneys as well as the eyes. Some examples of genetic diseases which affect both the eyes and the kidneys are Alport Syndrome (kidney disease and corneal disease) Senior – Loken and Bardet – Biedl Syndrome (kidney disease and pigmentation of retina) Sturge – Weber Syndrome and Von HippelLindau disease (kidney cancer and eye disease) Fabry’s disease and Nail Patella Syndrome (kidney disease with corneal disease and cataracts). These are just a few examples of genetic eye- kidney disorders.
The Organs Work In Close Harmony
The human body is not a combination of different organs which function independently of each other, but a group of organs that work in close harmony with each other. There is a lot of organ cross-talk and injury to one organ automatically initiates a negative impact on the other organs. Some organs are closer to each other and damage to one of them, rapidly involves the other. Examples of these close- knit ‘buddy’ organs are eye-kidney, lung-kidney, liver-kidney, heart-liver and liver-kidney-brain, to name just a few. Hence, it is crucial to identity the injured organ and the cause of injury so that the diagnosis is made quickly and the treatment is started early. This enhances the effectiveness of the treatment.
The early diagnosis in many kidney conditions is achieved by a basic eye examination! So, though philosophically the eyes maybe the ‘windows to the soul’ but medically and realistically, the eyes are actually windows to the kidney! So, the question is, should diseases that simultaneously affect the kidneys and the eyes be called ‘kidn-eye’ diseases?