Health Q&A: what's causing my tired-looking eyes?

Dr David Roche / 25 September 2015

Saga Magazine's Dr Roche gives some possible explanations for changes in the appearance of eyes.


Despite being a fit 50-something, my eyes always look grey and tired, no matter how much sleep I’ve had. I get at least seven hours of rest a night, most days, so do I have an eye condition? 


It is very unlikely that these features are related to eye disease. We are all very sensitive to our facial appearance, because of how we interact with other people. 

Facial changes like this are often attributed to physical disease when in fact changes are more likely to be due to psychological problems, lifestyle issues or age changes. 

We all know that the face can express happiness or sadness, often very evocatively and people’s facial appearance can be very different after missing a night’s sleep or being under stress at work.

Loss of elastic tissue in the skin of the face with age leads to wrinkles and looser skin. This is particularly noticeable around the eyes and may be partly responsible  for their changed appearance.

There are some disease states that can change eye appearance, in general these are not eye diseases but diseases which cause widespread change in the body, including the eyes. 

Two common ones would be anaemia and thyroid disease and others would include jaundice, cholesterol deposits around the eyes and some skin disease. 

Eye diseases themselves can be present with a normal looking eye, or with specific symptoms such as red eye, blurring, loss of acuity and  pain. It is unusual for them to present with the changes you describe.

The fact that you are fit and well does not suggest that any of the diseases mentioned above are to blame. I suspect that, in the absence of any other symptoms, your eye appearance is due to age changes.

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.