Whether they entail loss of vision or irritation of the eye, vision problems have a variety of symptoms. The pain and diminished function, while uncomfortable and sometimes even debilitating, are important in helping you and your doctor determine what precisely is wrong with your eye and how you can fix it. Please take a moment to learn about some common signs of eye dysfunction and what they may indicate.
Blurry, Distorted Vision
Long-term blurry or distorted vision can have a number of root causes. Most commonly, it is the result of a simple refractive error, which causes the light to be focused at some spot other than where it needs to be focused on the back of the retina. Astigmatism lies within this category of vision problems; in this case, the cornea (the transparent outer layer of the eye in front of the iris and pupil) is shaped unevenly, causing different portions of the light entering the eye to be focused at different depths. Common astigmatism treatments include eyeglasses and contact lenses. Among the more serious causes of distorted vision is macular degeneration, which can occur with age. It often causes the patient to lose central vision and see objects toward the middle of their field of view as warped. This condition can cause blindness if left untreated, so please contact an ophthalmologist for a macular degeneration diagnosis if you feel you may be experiencing these eye symptoms.
Difficulty Seeing Distant Objects
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a type of refractive error caused by the eyeballs being too long from front to back. Patients with this condition, which exists from birth, can see things very close to the face alright, but their vision becomes increasingly blurry as the distance to the object being viewed increases. The most prevalent myopia treatment methods involve prescription eyewear such as glasses and contact lenses, but LASIK surgery is becoming an ever more popular and effective long-term solution.
Difficulty Seeing Near Objects
In contrast to myopia, hyperopia causes people to be farsighted. This refractive error is a result of eyeballs that are too short, and it makes objects that are farther away appear clearer than objects that are up close. Basic hyperopia treatment methods include contact lenses. Patients over 18, though, may consider LASIK as a permanent solution.
Cloudy vision, wherein the visual image becomes obscured as if seen through a mist, is most often a symptom of cataracts. This condition, most likely a result of a stiffening of the eye lens with age, causes progressively worse vision problems as time goes by, and may even lead to blindness if left untreated. Cataract removal is possible in many cases via surgery, so it is important to catch the disease as soon as possible.
Cloudy vision can also come about in the presence of other medical conditions, some of which are very serious. Vitamin A deficiency, some STDs, and eye tumors can all cause the vision to appear foggy. Given the range of possibilities, patients experiencing this problem are encouraged to contact a professional eye care specialist as soon as possible.
Loss of Peripheral Vision
While discerning the small details of an object’s appearance requires us to focus on it with the central part of our vision, our peripheral vision is also very important. Being able to detect motion at the edges of our field of view allows us to sense incoming danger — such as cars running stop signs — and react instinctively. An impairment of this ability, while not debilitating, can be quite dangerous.
Some vision problems, including retinitis pigmentosa, are known to deteriorate the breadth and quality of peripheral vision. The most prominent of these conditions, though, is glaucoma. This disease, which takes several different forms of varying severity, is caused by a blockage of the normal flow of fluid in the eye. Loss of peripheral vision is the first of the eye symptoms it causes, though in many cases people do not notice it as it is happening. As the glaucoma progression continues, the disease can lead to extreme pain and even blindness. Glaucoma treatment options are usually effective, but much more so if the disease is caught early.
Involuntary eye twitching, which goes by the technical name nystagmus, is an eye symptom that can result from a number of different conditions. Most cases last only a few days and disappear without the cause ever being discovered. In more serious instances, though, head trauma, stroke, and brain tumors can upset the nerve signals that control the eyes. Balance disorders, such as Ménière’s disease and ear infections, can upset the body’s perception of motion, causing the eyes to twitch into new positions in response. A number of congenital conditions can also lead to twitching eyes. The severity of vision problems caused by nystagmus varies from case to case, but it is useful in helping doctor’s identify underlying diseases. Treatment, when feasible, usually focuses on dealing with the root problem.
Itchy, Watery Eyes
Prolonged itchiness and watering of the eyes is among the more common vision problems. These symptoms usually indicate that the patient has some type of eye allergies to pollen, pet hair, or to some other foreign substance in the environment. The eyes often become red and very uncomfortable, though significant vision loss is rare. Similar eye symptoms are also associated with temporary irritation and overuse of the eye, which should resolve itself once the problem has been corrected. Dry eye is another symptom, which tends to affect people as they age. Treatment options available depend on the cause of the problem.
Floaters are dark, distinct spots in the vision field caused by the presence of non-transparent substances in the fluid of the eyeball. As they block some light from reaching the retina, they can cause significant vision problems. Floaters are among the symptoms that arise after retinal detachment, in which the retina peels away from its underlying supports and ceases to function properly. This condition, often caused by trauma to the head and much more likely in those who suffer from severe myopia, constitutes an emergency and can lead to permanent blindness if not treated immediately.
Diabetic retinopathy, which afflicts many people with diabetes as they get older, causes the blood vessels in the retina to become weak and more likely to burst. The blood that seeps into the eye as a result often forms floaters. Diabetic retinopathy is often treated with laser photocoagulation or vitrectomy surgery. Floaters can also be caused by vitreous detachment, but this is not as serious a problem as diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment.
Like floaters, flashes are eye symptoms associated with of retinal detachment. People who see flashes often describe them as being like an arc of light across the field of vision, or a light bulb going on and off. In more common and less dangerous cases, flashes are caused by vitreous detachment. Because of the danger of retinal detachment and its long-term consequences, though, people who see flashes are advised to see a physician immediately.
Other Vision Problems and Symptoms
Many other vision problems can occur, and their symptoms are highly varied. Eye pain crops up in many people from time to time, from irritating scratches on the cornea to debilitating internal pressure, which might signal a dangerous form of glaucoma. Crusting of the eyelid is another common eye symptom; it usually is a side effect of allergies or an infection of the eye tissue such as pink eye. Another eyelid problem that some people experience is hyperpigmentation, or a darkening of the lid’s color, which usually indicates the presence of eczema. These and the other eye symptoms listed on this page are by no means a comprehensive list of all things that can go wrong with the eyes. If you suspect that you may be developing an eye condition, please contact a physician for a professional diagnosis immediately.
Schedule an Exam with an Ophthalmologist for Diagnosis
The information on this page may help you learn more about the potential seriousness of any eye symptoms you may be having, but it is no substitute for a professional evaluation. To avoid permanent vision problems, please have your symptoms examined immediately by scheduling an appointment with an ophthalmologist in your area right away.
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