They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. While this typically refers to how someone is feeling and what they’re thinking, they could also tell us something about our health.

More specifically, one expert warned that they could indicate whether someone is at risk for health issues during the winter months.

According to consultant ophthalmic surgeon and co-founder of OCL Vision, Dr Ali Mearza, people with certain eye colours could actually be at greater risk for a fairly common disorder.

Seasonal affective disorder – or SAD – is a type of depression that comes with the changing of the seasons, typically summer into autumn or autumn into winter.

Dr Mearza explained: “It typically develops gradually as the weather changes and we move into darker days with more time spent indoors.

“People suffering from SAD may experience fatigue, low energy and a decline in mood, as well as difficulty concentrating, sleeping and behavioural changes that come with depression, such as increased irritability.

“There are several factors at play with the disorder, and some might be surprised to hear that there are links between SAD and our eye health.”

According to Dr Mearza, studies have found a link between people that experience SAD and what eye colour they have.

Those with darker eyes are more likely to suffer from the condition.

He continued: “Eyes with lower pigment, like blue or grey eyes, are more sensitive to light.

“This means they don’t need to absorb as much as brown or dark eyes before this information reaches the retinal cells.

“This could potentially impact on melatonin production, a hormone associated with sleep and mood regulation.

“Light-eyed individuals, with their increased light sensitivity, may experience reduced melatonin release during the fall and winter, which could offer some protection against SAD.”

This is supported by one study, published in the Open Access Journal of Behavioural Science and Psychology in 2018.

Researchers compared reports of SAD among people living in Wales and Cyprus.

While they found no “significant” difference between the people in both countries, they did find that people with blue or light-coloured eyes were less likely to report suffering from winter depression.

“In contrast, a significant difference was uncovered between broadly blue/light eyed people and broadly brown/dark eyed individuals across the samples,” the study concluded.

“It is tentatively suggested that blue eye colouration may have evolved, in part, to reduce seasonal mood variability at northern latitudes.”

How to reduce the effects of SAD

Dr Mearza recommended steps you can take to lower your risk of or lessen the impact of SAD.

“The best way to help avoid the symptoms of SAD is to spend more time outdoors, particularly during sunny periods,” he added.

“You might also consider a course of phototherapy, where individuals sit in front of a light box for an hour daily.

“If the symptoms worsen and you feel your mood deteriorate through the winter, visit your GP.”

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