What is eye problems?

Eye Problems

Eye problems, noninjury: Overview

Many people have minor eye problems, such as eyestrain, irritated eyes, or itchy, scaly eyelids (blepharitis). These problems may be ongoing (chronic), but they usually aren't serious. Home treatment can relieve the symptoms of many minor eye problems.

Common eye problems

Common types of eye problems include:

  • Drainage from the eyes or too much tearing.
  • Watery eyes from hay fever or other seasonal allergies.
  • Eye strain or vision changes. Vision changes may happen gradually or suddenly. They include blurred vision and double vision.
  • Misaligned eyes or strabismus (sometimes called cross-eyes).
  • Blood in the white of the eye (subconjunctival hemorrhage).
  • Eyelid problems. These may be caused by irritation or infection. A stye is an example.
  • Contact lens problems. To avoid eye problems, be sure to follow the directions for cleaning and wearing contact lenses.
  • Color blindness.
  • Night blindness.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Cataracts.
  • Retinal problems, such as diabetic retinopathy.
  • Red eyes that may be caused by infection, inflammation, or tumors.
  • Uveitis.
  • Macular degeneration.
  • Papilledema.

It's fairly common for the eyes to be irritated or have a scratchy feeling. Pain isn't a common eye problem unless there has been an injury. It's not unusual for the eyes to be slightly sensitive to light. But sudden, painful sensitivity to light is a serious problem. It may be a sign of glaucoma or inflammation of the muscles that control the pupil (iritis). Have it checked by your doctor.

People often live with minor eye irritation and problems for a long time, until the irritation or problems become bothersome enough to seek care. People who have skin problems and allergies often have ongoing minor problems with the skin of their eyelids and allergic irritation of the eyes.

Vision changes

Sudden problems such as new vision changes, pain in the eye, or increased drainage are often more serious. They should be checked by a doctor. Eye symptoms that are new or that occur suddenly may be checked by an emergency medicine specialist.

Ongoing (chronic) eye problems that may be getting worse are usually checked by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist). A gradual change in your vision or chronic eye problems may include:

  • Vision changes, such as:
    • Trouble adjusting your vision when you enter a dark room.
    • Trouble focusing on close or faraway objects.
    • Dark spots in the center of your vision field.
    • Lines or edges that look wavy.
  • Eyelid problems, such as a stye or chalazion (a small, hard lump).
  • Discharge from or irritation of the eyeball or eyelids. Examples include an infection of the inner edge of the lower eyelid (dacryocystitis) and pinkeye (conjunctivitis).
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia).
  • Not being able to see well at night (night blindness). A decrease in night vision may be caused by nearsightedness, cataracts, macular degeneration, or conditions that affect the retina.

Vision and age

As you reach your 40s and 50s, it's common to have some vision changes and maybe to need glasses. Some of the changes may also cause other symptoms, like headaches and nausea. These symptoms can affect your ability to function.

Some children may have special risks for eye problems. Vision screening is advised for infants who were either born at or before 30 weeks, whose birth weight was below 3.3 lb (1500 g) , or who have serious medical conditions. Most vision problems are noticed first by the parents. The first screening is recommended about 4 to 9 weeks after birth.

What are the signs of eye problems in children?

Parents are often the first to notice vision problems in a young child. A vision exam may be needed if your child:

  • Is clumsy (beyond normal toddler clumsiness) and fails to notice new things around them.
  • Squints when the light is not bright or scrunches up their face when trying to do a task.
  • Rubs their eyes when the child isn't tired. (Rubbing eyes when tired is normal.)
  • Squints when the light is turned on or stares at lights.
  • Has excessive tearing when not crying.
  • Has frequent eye infections, swollen eyelids, or frequent styes. Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) is a common problem in children.
  • Has eyes that seem to bulge, bounce, or dance in rapid regular movements.
  • Often tilts their head to one side as though trying to see better.
  • Often covers one eye or shuts one eye because they are uncomfortable. All children will sometimes cover or close an eye to experiment with their vision and see how the world looks with only one eye open.
  • Avoids tasks or play that requires good vision, like looking at books.
  • Holds books or toys too close or sits too close to the TV screen.
  • Has eyes that look mismatched or crossed or that don't move together.
  • Has pupils that aren't the same size or that appear white instead of black.

How can you help prevent vision-related problems at work?

You can reduce your risk of vision problems from improper lighting with:

  • Full-spectrum lights, which may help reduce eyestrain.
  • Task lighting (such as lights above your workstation or on your desk). This can increase the level of light in your office and allow you the flexibility to position the light where it is needed most.
  • Monitor screens that reduce glare, such as plasma screens or removable glare guards.
  • Proper placement of computer screens. Do not place a computer screen in front of or next to a window. This creates a contrast problem and visual stress. If you do sit next to a window, the best placement for your monitor is at a right (90-degree) angle to the window.
  • Window blinds or tinted glass, to reduce sun glare while still allowing filtered light into your office.

It's also a good idea to have an eye exam every 1 or 2 years. If you wear bifocals or reading glasses, you may want to adjust your monitor so that you don't have to tilt your head back to see clearly. Or consider full-frame reading glasses for computer use. There are also progressive lenses available that have a reading prescription at the bottom, a mid-distance prescription that is good for computer use in the middle of the lens, and a long-distance prescription at the top of the lens. The lens has these three types of prescriptions in different areas of the glass and smooth transitions between types of prescriptions.

Treating eye symptoms

Home treatment may give some relief from eye symptoms. If you are caring for a child who can't hold still, ask another adult for help if needed.

  • Rest your eyes.

    This includes taking out your contacts if you use them.

  • Don't rub your eyes.
  • Try cold or warm compresses.

    Use whichever feels the best.

  • Gently flush your eyes with water.

    Take out your contacts, if you use them. Put your face in a pan of water, or use a low pressure kitchen sink sprayer. Keep your eyes open.

  • Protect your eyes.

    Avoid bright lights and use dark glasses.

  • Moisten your eyes.

    If needed, use over-the-counter eyedrops, such as artificial tear solutions.

  • Use eyedrops or ointment if needed.

    Follow the directions on how to use them.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.