Fact Check: The Way Your Eyes Look Does NOT Predict Disease

Fact Check

  • by: Marlo Lee
Fact Check: The Way Your Eyes Look Does NOT Predict Disease Pseudo-Science

Do the color and characteristics of your irises, the colored part of the eye, reveal whether you have "good genetics" or are at risk for diseases like HIV, AIDS and cancer? No, that's not true: Opthamologist Dr. Anthony Arnold, director of the UCLA Optic Neuropathy Center, told Lead Stories that a video that makes this claim has "no scientific fact in it." A spokesperson from the National Institutes of Health's National Eye Institute elaborated that though experts can see the impact of diseases like diabetes and heart disease on the retina, which is the back of the eye, the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, does not reveal such medical conditions.

The claim about human eyes appeared in an August 25, 2022 video on self-described herbalist-healer Alexander "Yah'ki" Hickman's official Instagram channel. In the video, Hickman tells viewers:

If I look inside your eyes, I can read and reflect what's going on inside of your body.

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thurs Sept 1 22:30 2022 UTC)

Though Hickman says that diseases can be seen through the eyes, he only focuses on the iris, the colored part of the eye.

He alleges that lines in the iris mean that a person has "good genetics," while spaces in the iris signify that a person has pieces of their DNA missing. He states that "degenerate eyes" reveal the presence of HIV/AIDS or cancer. Green and gray eyes, according to Hickman, do not exist. Apart from "lymphatic blue," hazel-brown and "true brown," he claims that "Any other eye color that you see is literally a genetic weakness."

The video provides no sources for these assertions.

Lead Stories has fact checked this narrator's content before for spreading misinformation. Hickman, who describes himself as an "herbalist," a "crystal healer" and a "positive speaker for the Black community," is not a licensed physician within the United States, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Lead Stories requested a licensed physician, Dr. Anthony Arnold, an ophthalmologist and director of the UCLA Optic Neuropathy Center in Los Angeles, California, to evaluate Hickman's video. In an August 31, 2022 email to Lead Stories, Dr. Arnold wrote:

This clip has no scientific fact in it. The closest he comes to truth is that if you are able to look into the eye and see the retina in a medical way, you may see disease processes reflected there (eg diabetes, hypertension, immune diseases). But not in the sense he indicates, and the other claims have no basis in science or medicine.

A medical professional must dilate the eyes and use specialized equipment to inspect the retina. Problems such as diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration are not visible at a glance from the outside.

Eye experts also cannot see diseases through the iris, said Maria Zacharias, the associate director for communications at the National Institutes of Health's National Eye Institute.

In an August 30, 2022 email to Lead Stories, Zacharias wrote that she did not understand what Hickman means by black spots, spaces or lines in the iris or "degenerate eyes."

An April 29, 2022 article from the American Academy of Opthamology on "20 Surprising Health Problems an Eye Exam Can Catch" also did not support Hickman's claims about the iris.

Lastly, Zacharias rejected Hickman's assertion that green and gray eyes do not exist. "We know that grey and green eyes exist -- we've seen them!" she wrote. "They are not signs of genetic weakness."

Additional Lead Stories fact checks about eyes can be found here and here.

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Marlo Lee is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology. Her interest in fact checking started in college, when she realized how important it became in American politics. She lives in Maryland.

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