Eye Health — Watch For These Warning Signs

When To Seek Help


It can be scary to notice a medical problem with part of your body, especially if it has to do with your eyes or your vision. We all value our sight and want to do everything we can to take care of our eyes. When a new symptom develops, however, it is tough to know if the symptom is the sign of a larger problem that needs to be seen right away or may be something that will resolve on its own with time.

Sometimes, a quick internet search for guidance gives more anxiety than answers. To help ease these concerns, I want to give an eye doctor's perspective on some symptoms you may experience that require a prompt checkup with your eye doctor.

It may be obvious, but if your eye becomes red, painful or light sensitive, it’s a good idea to see your eye doctor for an evaluation. This is particularly true if you also have any watering or discharge from the eye. These symptoms could be caused by an infection or inflammation in the eye, and often require treatment. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can evaluate your eyes under a microscope to determine the cause of your symptoms and prescribe treatment to address the problem if needed.

Another symptom eye doctors deal with frequently is floaters in the vision (spots in your vision that appear to drift with eye movement). Having a few floaters that you only notice occasionally is common, but suddenly having a lot of new floaters or experiencing flashes of light can represent a problem in your retina. If you notice these symptoms, it's best to see an eye doctor quickly (within one day, if possible) for a dilated examination, as these symptoms may be from a retinal tear or detachment that needs prompt treatment.

If there is ever a time when your vision becomes dark or dim in one or both eyes, this can be a sign of a serious eye problem. Even if the vision returns shortly thereafter and seems to be back to normal, it can still be a sign of an issue with either the eye itself, the blood vessels that supply the eye, or a neurological issue. A dilated eye exam can elucidate if there is an eye-related issue causing the problem. If nothing is found on eye examination, your eye doctor can direct you to another type of specialist for further testing to assess ocular blood flow or for neurological issues, if needed. Other signs of neurological issues involving the eyes that would require examination by an eye doctor include double vision, drooping of one eyelid, asymmetric pupil sizes, or bulging eyes.

You should also seek prompt attention if you get a chemical or a piece of plastic, metal, or some other foreign substance in the eye. If you get some sort of chemical, cleaning solution, or harmful liquid in your eye, immediately flush the eye for 15 to 30 minutes with tap water or saline. After flushing the eye, call your eye doctor or go to an urgent care center or emergency room. If you believe a foreign body is stuck in your eye, gently rinsing the eye with tap water or saline can help to flush it out, but do not try to remove anything from your eye by yourself. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will be happy to take care of it, so you don’t put the eye in danger by trying to take care of it yourself.

This covers many situations that need to be evaluated urgently. If you ever have a question about whether you need to be seen urgently for an eye problem, it's always best to call your optometrist or ophthalmologist to discuss your symptoms so that they can help you decide on when to be seen.

Dr. Cason can be found at Rutzen Eye Specialists & Laser Center, located at 489 Ritchie Highway, Suite 200, in Severna Park. To make an appointment, call 410-975-0090, or learn more at www.rutzeneye.com.


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