The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Eye Problems

The Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Eye Problems

Introduction

The eyes are the primary sensory organs in the human body, accounting for nearly 80% of all information and sensations we receive and process. However, eyes are not only involved in vision; they also play a role in the regulation of sleep-wake cycles and hormonal production by absorbing sunlight throughout the day. Eye problems are usually attributed to older people, however, it appears that more and more younger and middle-aged people also experience frequent eye issues, which is not surprising considering the impact of standard American diet, sedentary lifestyle, almost continuous screen use, and lack of time outside. 

This article is going to expand on the 10 most common warning signs & symptoms of eye problems that should prompt you to start prioritizing your health and consulting your healthcare professional if needed. You will also learn about the potential causes of your most pressing eye symptoms and acute or chronic illnesses that may be behind them.

Red eyes

The whites of the eyes might turn pink or red, which is usually caused by inflamed small blood vessels. It can be caused by some conditions that trigger irritation, swelling, and vision loss. These conditions include inflammation of some eye structures and are known as uveitis, blepharitis, and conjunctivitis as well as certain allergic diseases. However, red eyes may be a sign of a lack of sleep. Having your eyes work up late and utilizing artificial light can cause irritation and a decrease in the production of tears, so the outer surface of the eye will not be lubricated properly. This results in eye itchiness and dryness. Make sure you consult your family doctor or optometrist if your eyes are chronically red to rule out underlying eye disease.

Dry eyes

Dry eye is probably one of the most common eye symptoms. Dry eye can be a chronic condition when your eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate the outer surface of the eye. Dry eyes can be caused by many factors, but usually, it’s a combination of nutrient deficiency, inflammatory eye disorders, such as blepharitis, looking at a screen for long periods, and a dry indoor environment. In terms of nutrient deficiency, certain nutrients are associated with dry eye symptoms. For example, it was found that vitamin D deficiency can cause dry eye symptoms, while vitamin D supplementation helps reduce eye inflammation and improve the effectiveness of eye drops. Vitamin A is another vitamin crucial for eye health as we need it to produce tears and lubricate the eyes. Vitamin A supplementation may help improve the quality of tears. Chronic dry eye symptoms can be a sign of more serious health issues, including some autoimmune conditions. Dry eyes can also be related to aging due to hormonal changes, especially in postmenopausal women. Make sure you consult your healthcare professional if you suffer from chronic dry eye symptoms and/or planning to supplement vitamins.

Poor night vision

Poor night vision, also known as night blindness, is an inability to adapt to low-light conditions. Conditions that can cause night blindness include retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, and cataracts. Apart from those serious diseases, night blindness is a classic first sign of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A serves as a precursor of rhodopsin, which is the photopigment found within the retina that helps us see at night. Vitamin A is found in its readily available form in animal products, but can also be obtained as beta-carotene from many fruits and vegetables. Supplementing vitamin A may help significantly reduce the risk of night blindness or even reverse it.

Floaters

Some people complain about seeing shapes, like blobs or squiggly lines, in their visual field. They are known as floaters as people usually describe them as objects floating in front of their eyes. Those objects float within the jelly substance known as vitreous within the eye. Typically, floaters fade in and go away over time, and they are not harmful in small amounts. However, severe floaters may be a sign of conditions like diabetic retinopathy, posterior vitreous detachment, or uveitis. Although rare, floaters can be caused by intraocular tumors or inflammation of the vitreous. Intraocular foreign bodies can also lead to floaters, but they will usually manifest with additional symptoms, such as loss of vision, blurry vision, redness, and pain in the eye.

Flashes

Flashing is when you see lightning streaks or lights in your visual field. The closest thing to seeing flashes is like seeing stars when bumped into the head. Flashes often occur as a result of the pulling of the vitreous on the retina, but may also be a sign of detachment of retina or migraine. Detachment of retina is an emergency condition, and other symptoms include loss of peripheral vision, narrowing of the visual field, and sudden floaters. Seek medication attention immediately if you start to experience flushes suddenly.

Impaired peripheral vision

Peripheral vision is the ability to see in areas in which you are not focused. The cause of one- or two-sided impaired peripheral vision may be nerve damage due to glaucoma. Any condition or event that prevents sufficient blood flow to the optic nerve and other eye structures can cause this issue. Some of those include diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, inflammation of the optic nerve, migraine, stroke, or brain damage.

Light sensitivity

Light sensitivity, or photophobia, is a condition when one finds bright light unpleasant and uncomfortable. The severity of light sensitivity varies from mild cases when light causes a person to squint while outside or in a bright room, to more severe cases when light causes significant pain in the eyes. Light sensitivity can be a sign of some eye disorders, including cataracts, keratoconus, conjunctivitis, and corneal abrasion, but it may also be a symptom of migraine. In addition, light sensitivity is a sign of brain disorders, such as encephalitis or meningitis. Consulting your doctor, especially in case of sudden light sensitivity, is essential for avoiding life-threatening health issues.

Cloudy vision

In cloudy vision, one may have difficulties seeing objects clearly and may feel like looking through a haze. Cloudy vision may affect one or both eyes. The most common cause of cloudy vision is cataracts, which is a widespread age-related change experienced by a majority of people. Cataracts occur when proteins in the lens of the eyes break down and clump together. There are other causes of cloudy vision, both minor and major. They include floaters,  which are shapes moving across the vision line, infection, injury, or inflammation of the eye. More rare but serious conditions include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and stroke.

Blurry vision

Blurry vision is usually perceived as a lack of vision sharpness, which makes a person unable to see fine details. Blurry vision can affect the entire visual field or just parts of it, like peripheral vision. Certain diseases and conditions can cause blurred and/or distorted vision, but not all of them are primarily related to the eyes. For example, migraine, stroke, inflammation of the brain and its meninges, and concussion can all lead to blurry vision. Many eye-related conditions can cause blurry vision, including glaucoma, refractive errors, such as near-, far-sightedness, or astigmatism, age-related macular degeneration, detached retina, eye infections or injuries, and macular edema. Some of those conditions are serious and may lead to permanent vision loss if not managed urgently. If your vision suddenly becomes blurred, seek medical help immediately.

Conclusion

Eye problems can come with a variety of signs and symptoms. They can be a sign of minor issues or indicate emergency conditions. As a rule of thumb, any sudden vision change should prompt you to seek medical attention immediately to avoid serious medical conditions that can lead to temporary or permanent vision loss. Minor eye symptoms like redness, dryness, or difficulty seeing in dim light, can point out to nutrient deficiency, including vitamin A, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Overall, giving eyes a well-deserved rest, spending time outside, and limiting the use of screens can have a tremendous positive impact on eye health and prevent chronic eye disorders.

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberly-langdon-m-d-41847610/
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.

Publications

-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being