When was the last time you saw your eye doctor for a regular check-up? An estimated 61 million adults in the United States who are at risk for vision loss haven’t seen an ophthalmologist in the last year, according to the CDC.
When it comes to health, many adults skip routine eye exams, without knowing that what’s going on in your eyes could be a signal of other health problems such as high blood pressure, infectious disease or an autoimmune disorder. Any changes in vision or eye symptoms you experience could be a sign of a bigger problem and should warrant a trip to your eye doctor. Here are a few examples of eye symptoms you should never ignore.
- Floaters and flashes. Most people have experienced floaters at some point in their lives. These obnoxious, cobweb-like shadows in your vision are likely simply vitreous gel that has broken off from the retina and is now floating around in your eye. While these are rarely serious, if too much vitreous gel separates from the retina, it could result in a retinal tear, which requires immediate attention from your eye doctor.
- Red, watery eyes. Red eyes are normally nothing more than allergies or a sign of a long night, however, red, watery eyes can be a symptom of an eye infection of the cornea called keratitis. Those who wear contact lenses may be more prone to the infection, which causes redness, pain, inflammation and discharge, among other eye problems. Treatment is easy if caught early. If you have watery, red or painful eyes, better safe than sorry to have your eyes checked out by your eye doctor.
- Double vision. If you experience double vision in one or both eyes, get to your eye doctor. While the cause could be benign, it may also be a symptom of a corneal problem, neurological issue, autoimmune problem or another potentially serious eye condition. If the double vision comes on suddenly and is accompanied by pain, weakness or slurred speech, skip the eye doctor and head straight to the emergency room.
- Uneven pupils. Some people live with anisocoria, or uneven pupils, but if one of your pupils grows larger than the other and you haven’t used eye drops, see your eye doctor. Uneven pupils could be the sign of a serious problem such as stroke, brain infection or tumor.
- Eye pain. No eye pain should be considered “normal.” If your eyes hurt, there is a reason why, whether due to an eye injury, optic neuropathy or glaucoma. If your eye pain is caused by injury or something in your eye, do not rub, rinse or apply pressure and never attempt to remove anything from your eye. Go to your emergency room.
Keep in mind that most of these eye symptoms could be entirely benign, but when it comes to your vision, it’s best to have any and all eye symptoms examined by an eye professional.