Buchanan Optometrists

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7 Eye symptoms that require immediate attention

Whilst your eyes comfort and vision can vary day to day for a number of reasons there are some symptoms which require urgent attention in order to avoid sight or even life threatening complications. If you notice any of the following please call us for advice. Even if you have had a recent eye examination these conditions can crop up at any time, so do not delay in seeking our help. If for any reason you cannot contact us then please contact your GP or local A and E for advice. This list is not exhaustive so if you have any questions about your eyes please just ask us.

  1.     Flashes of light. – Lots of people see occasional flashes of light, especially as they get older. These occasional flashes are usually harmless, but you should discuss them with your optometrist during an eye exam. If you suddenly start seeing repeated flashes of light, this could be a sign of a serious problem, especially if you also have floaters or your vision changes. Suddenly seeing new flashes and floaters could mean you have a retinal detachment. This is a very serious condition that must be treated quickly to prevent long term damage.
  2.     Floaters. – These are caused by particles in the vitreous gel that fills your eye. The particles cast a shadow onto your retina, blocking small areas of your vision. Floaters occur naturally as the vitreous gel in your eye thickens or shrinks with age. In most cases, floaters are completely harmless. In some cases, the shrinking vitreous gel can pull on the retina. This can cause a tear in the retina or at worst detach it, this will cause a sudden increase in floaters.
  3.      Eye injury or pain. - An eye injury or embedded foreign body, acid or alkali burn in the eye needs immediate attention from medical professionals. A painful (not just irritated) eye in a contact lens wearer could indicate the rare but sight threatening condition called Acanthamoeba Keratitis. If not treated urgently it can result in permanent vision loss.
  4.     Sudden hazy or blurred vision. – This can happen in one or both eyes. Occasionally caused by dryness of the tear film, foreign bodies in the eye or migraines but sometimes more serious. If your eye suddenly goes blurry, you may have developed a macular-hole in the retina. Blurry vision also may be a symptom of a detached retina, eye-herpes or optic neuritis. If you have diabetes, blurred vision may be due to diabetic retinopathy this is a disease that damages the retina of the eye. Damage to the brain caused by a stroke can also result in a loss of peripheral vision. Certain changes in vision, even a short-lived temporary loss, can indicate an embolism blocking a tiny blood vessel. This may clear but could suggest a further threat in the vital organs such as the heart or lungs. Such symptoms would be referred immediately to the GP for further investigation.
  5.     Red eye - If you experience sudden eye pain combined with red eye, blurred vision, haloes around lights, nausea or vomiting, it could be symptom of acute closed-angle glaucoma. This is a medical emergency, and you should seek medical attention straight away. Iritis has the following symptoms, redness of eyes, discomfort in the eyes, photophobia and loss of vision. It can develop suddenly, if untreated it can lead to glaucoma and even vision loss, if you notice any of the symptoms seek immediate assistance from your optometrist.
  6.     Sudden turn to the eye (squint)- This can cause double vision. In adults this may be due to a nerve palsy, virus, bleed, vascular disturbance or even a tumour and therefore requires urgent attention. Young children can develop a squint quickly due to muscle weaknesses. Ptosis, or drooping of the eyelid, may just be age-related but may be another indicator of a cranial nerve palsy.
  7.    Child/Baby with White pupil- Often seen as a white reflection of the pupil in a photograph. This can be retinoblastoma- a form of an eye tumour and requires immediate urgent attention. Children can also suffer from cataracts from birth or early childhood which if severe and left untreated can permanently damage a child's vision.