4 Eye Symptoms That Signal Danger

If you experience any of them, get an eye exam right away!

“Doc, my left eye can’t see,” said Ronald.

Ronald sat down in the exam chair and explained that several months earlier he had started seeing flashing lights in his vision.  Then, weeks later he noticed he could not ee from his left eye.

After a complete eye exam, Ronald’s eye doctor informed him that he had suffered a complete retinal detachment. “If you had come for an exam when your symptoms began,” said the doctor, “we might have been able to save your vision.”

Unfortunately, stories such as this one do occur. But you can protect yourself and your family from such a tragedy by learning the four eye symptoms that should alert you to danger.

1. Eye pain
Severe eye pain or eye pain with vision loss are emergencies. Conditions that can cause eye pain include

  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Corneal abrasions
  • Narrow angle glaucoma
  • Burns
  • Inflammation of various ocular tissues (e.g. uveitis, scleritis, cellulitis)

Some of these conditions can lead to blindness. Orbital cellulitis, a bacterial inection that affects children more than adults, can be lethal. If your child has fever, eye pain and eyelid swelling, get him to a hospital immediately!


orbital cellulitis picture

Orbital cellulitis, a potentially life-threatening condition

2. Flashing lights/floaters
Flashing lights that you have never seen before can be a sign of danger. The same is true for new things floating in your vision. Both of these symptoms can come from a retinal tear, hole or detachment. These are problems that can generally be repaired if caught quickly but can lead to blindness if left alone.

If you experience new flashing lights or see new things floating in your vision, see an eye doctor.

3. Double Vision
Sudden onset double vision can also be an emergency. Tumors and aneurysms of the brain can interfere with the cranial nerves responsible for eye movement.

Myasthenia gravis, another potentially life threatening condition, can also cause double vision. There are more common and less serious causes of double vision, but anyone who experiences sudden onset double vision should get an eye exam promptly.

4. Sudden loss of vision
It is not normal to have a quick, dramatic loss of vision. Such vision loss can be complete or partial (only on one side, for instance.) It can last for seconds, minutes, hours or days.

Regardless, any of the above constitute an eye emergency. Call your eye doctor immediately.

There are many problems that can cause sudden vision loss. They include clots and hemorrhages of the retina’s blood vessels, inflammation of the optic nerve, an ocular stroke, and inflammation of the arteries that supply blood to the eye. In some of these cases, a person’s vision can be saved with appropriate timely action. In other instances, health issues beyond vision can be at stake.

If you lose vision suddenly, get an eye exam right away.



A retinal hemorrhage– one of the many possible causes of sudden vision loss

The four eye symptoms that should be treated as emergencies are:

  • Severe eye pain
  • New flashes or floaters
  • Double vision
  • Sudden vision loss

If you experience any of them, call your eye doctor right away.

Get Informed!
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