Iridology in the New England Journal of Medicine?

One of the items in my collection of medical memorabilia is a tattered early textbook on iridology. This alternative system of diagnosis is based on seventeenth century writings and was popularized by the Hungarian physician von Peczely, who noticed similar changes in the iris of a man with a fractured leg and an owl with a broken leg he saw in his childhood.

Intriguing as the notion of iridodiagnosis may be, there are only a few systemic conditions mainstream physicians look for in or near the iris. Arcus senilis is a gray border seen in individuals with very high cholesterol, for example.

A while back the venerable Journal had an interesting little case vignette of a woman with an unusual growth on her left cornea (see picture), which turned out to be a metastasis from a uterine cancer. The area where the growth occurred just happens to be in the general area thought by iridologists to represent the pelvis!

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