By looking at a person’s eyes you can usually tell a great deal about their general state of health. Bright, sparkling eyes are a sign of good health and vigour; dull, opaque eyes can indicate poor health or illness. Iridologists have taken this form of diagnosis much further. They believe that particular markings of sites in the iris, the coloured part of the eye, can be related to organic disease and that by localizing these markings one can relate the disease to a specific organ.

Origins of iridology

Examination of the eye for diagnostic purposes is as ancient as medicine itself. References to it are found in many early medical writings, including those of the famous Greek physician Hippocrates. Modern iris diagnosis, known as iridology or iriscopy, owes its origins to the nineteenth-century Hungarian doctor, Ignaz von Peczely (1826-1911). When Ignaz was twelve years old, he shot an owl during a hunting expedition. As he took the bird by its wing it nipped him in his hand. Ignaz had to break its leg in order to dislodge the bird’s beak from his hand. As he did so, he noticed that bleeding started to occur in the eye of the bird on the same side of the body as the broken leg. He nursed the animal at home but he noted that, even after the bird had recovered, a spot still remained in its eye. Later he observed the same phenomenon occurring in patients undergoing surgery: when a limb was amputated a vacuole – a small fluid-filled cavity – appeared in the patient’s iris. All this led Peczely to discover that various changes in the appearance of the iris could be related to different disease conditions. In 1880 he published a paper on the analysis of the iris. At about the same time, a Swedish homoeopath, Nils Liljequist (1851-1936), carried out his own detailed observations of changes in iris pigmentation in relation to disease. He published his findings in the work ‘Diagnosis from the eye’ {’Om Oegondiagnosen’). Iridology was then adopted as a diagnostic tool and significant progress was made. The early iris diagnostician, Pastor Felke (1856-1926) contributed greatly to the advancement of the technique. Today iridology attracts a large following in some European countries.

Method and application

Iridologists are trained to detect even the smallest changes in the appearance of the iris, and are able to provide information not only about an individual’s present state of health but also about past illnesses and abnormalities as well as impending disorders. The iridologist first examines the iris as a whole and gets a general impression about colour and structure. All new-boms have blue eyes because there is still a lack of eye-pigment. Gradually the eyes take on their genetically determined colour. Every irregularity of the eye is based upon hereditary or acquired disturbances of the organism. For judging the eye it is important to know with what kind of constitution the patient has been born. Several factors might influence this constitution in a positive or negative sense. There are 5 main types of constitution: the lymphatic type: blue-grey iris with coarse radial lines the neurogenic type: blue-grey iris, fine radial lines the hydrogenic type: water-blue iris, often with small white spots at the edge of the iris the haematogenic type: greyish-green to greeny-brown iris, radial lines are quite often obscured the mixed type: no type dominates, often pigmentations over the whole iris.


After the iridologist has determined the constitution of the iris he looks for changes in the colour of the iris and where, if present, they are located. He then studies the iris for, among other things, factors such as cloudiness, lines, splits, perforations, tumours and tears. He starts from its inner-centre, the pupil (looking for any transformation in its shape), through the several zones into which the iris is divided, to the edge of the iris, and often makes a comparison between the right and left iris. This preliminary ‘eye-diagnosis’ also includes the examination of other eye-related structures. At this stage of the examination the iridologist looks for the so-called illness-signs, complementary-signs and any other signs that might provide clues to the patient’s condition. After having studied all this information, the iridologist discusses his conclusions with the patient.


During the last few years several comprehensive iris-charts have been developed for both the right and left iris showing the exact positions of organs or systems of the body projected on the iris. The procedure itself is very straightforward. The only essential equipment that an iridologist needs is a magnifying glass and a torch with which to examine the iris

Today most practitioners also use purpose-built binocular microscopes with built-in cameras. This enables them to study a magnified picture of the iris at leisure, either on a photograph, a projected slide or on a closed-circuit video screen. Many therapists use iridology in conjunction with some other form of alternative therapy such as acupuncture, naturopathy, osteopathy, or herbalism. They use the technique either to provide confirmation of a suspected diagnosis or in place of other methods of diagnosis, many of which are invasive and less pleasant for the patient. Some patients, for example, are squeamish or opposed in principle to giving blood samples; others may prefer to avoid X-rays if the choice is available.


A doctor practising orthodox medicine may also look into the eyes to try to detect certain signs of illness or abnormalities. Chronic nephritis, high blood pressure, allergies and diabetes are just some of the conditions which may cause changes in the appearance of the eyes.

Diabetes, for example, may manifest itself in a number of different signs visible in the eyes. Tiny white spots appear on the retina as a result of fluid leakage from blood vessels that have been damaged by the disorder. Other signs that are usually only identifiable as a result of the use of fluorescein dye, include tiny haemorrhages, microaneurysms and tiny bulges in capillaries. Arteriosclerosis and hypertension may also be detected in the eyes. The macula, an area near the centre of the retina, may start to degenerate if there is a decrease in its vital supplies of nutrients and oxygen. Beneath the macula, small white patches may also be visible when examined through an ophthalmoscope. Iridology, however, has gained little acceptance in the world of orthodox medicine although its use among practitioners of complemen- tary medical procedures is growing. Iridologists themselves vary in the extent of their dependence on the technique, but all who practise iridology are agreed that the iris offers a remarkably detailed and sensitive ‘map’ of the body’s health and may also provide early evidence of disease.