There are many common eye disorders of varying degrees of seriousness. It can be difficult to know whether a condition requires medical attention, or can be easily treated at home. This list will hopefully help you determine the eye disorder you may have and the appropriate next steps. Note however that these guidelines are just an overview, and are not a replacement for professional medical attention or consultation.
Typically, most common eye disorders can be categorized into major eye symptoms. We’ll address some of these below.
Red / Irritated Eyes
Red or bloodshot eyes can have many different causes, ranging from broken blood vessels and trauma to infection, allergy, or inflammation. If the white of your eyes, or the sclera, looks red or pink, you may have one of the following conditions:
Most common in children, adults are also susceptible to pink eye. Pink eye is an infection known as conjunctivitis, and can also cause redness as well as itching, burning/stinging, eye discharge, and watering.
There are contagious and non-contagious forms of the infection. Allergic conjunctivitis is non-contagious, whereas viral and bacterial forms are. If you think you have pink eye, you should visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment to prevent spreading the condition. It is also important to try to avoid rubbing your eyes and wash your hands often.
There are two major kinds of allergies – seasonal or outdoor allergies, most often to tree or other plant pollen, and indoor allergies, most commonly animal dander, smoke and molds. How your eyes react may depend on the type of year and types of allergens in your area. Cold wet compresses against closed eyes can help alleviate irritation and symptoms. Over-the-counter antihistamines are also available and may provide additional relief.
Broken Blood Vessel
The human eye has many tiny blood vessels in the sclera which can break from straining, rubbing, or sometimes no reason at all. When a blood vessel breaks, the sclera appears red due to the leakage of blood.
This often appears scary and serious, but usually is harmless and not an emergency. However, to be on the safe side, you should consider a doctor’s visit a day or two after noticing the break to make sure there’s no deeper cause for the broken blood vessel.
If you get hit in the eye, it is usually safest to see an eye doctor immediately. Sometimes there’s just mild redness, but often there is pain or blurred vision. The eye could be scratched or gouged, and there could also be more extensive damage within the eye which would be much more serious.
If you experienced trauma to the eye, you should place a cold compress against the injured eye and avoid rubbing it. If necessary, go to an emergency room or urgent care center for immediate attention.
Almost all itching in eyes is caused by some sort of allergen. Usually this can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops or antihistamines. It is recommended to avoid drops that remove redness, or decongestants, as they could be potentially addictive.
Cold compresses or ice packs are also helpful with itchy eyes. As always, avoid rubbing your eyes, as doing so can release histamines which make the itching worse.
If blurred vision occurs suddenly and persists, or if one eye goes blurry or dark suddenly, this is an emergency. You should see a doctor immediately, or visit an emergency room / urgent care center.
If there is minor blurring comes and goes, that could mean tiredness, dryness or eye strain. Many things can cause blurred vision, ranging from pink eye to allergies to even just doing a lot of near vision work, such as computer screen work or reading. Try taking a break and resting your eyes. If the blurriness persists, make an appointment for an eye exam.
This is most commonly associated with allergies, although trauma or getting hit in the eye could also cause swelling. If the puffiness is caused by allergies, it is worth considering an over-the-counter decongestant.
A burning sensation can be the result of allergy, dryness, tiredness, vision stress due to computer work, or any combination of the above. If the burning persists, it is worth seeing your doctor, but the sensation alone is not an emergency.
As a rule of thumb, if you have pain along with redness, it is an emergency and you should seek medical attention right away. Constant eye pain, especially as a result of eye movement, can sometimes indicate inflammation of the inner eye. This also would call for seeing your eye doctor as soon as possible for treatment.
If the pain is dull like a headache, but in your eye, without any redness or blurred vision, it could be caused by simple overuse or strain. A doctor’s visit is only recommended if the pain persists.
Spots and Floaters
Most people get spots and floaters over the course of the day; this is completely normal. These spots are caused by protein and other tissue that get imbedded inside of the eye. As we get older, these floaters become more noticeable. However, if a floater is accompanied by a flash of light, it could indicate a more serious condition, such as a detached retina.
If you get a flash of light, clouds of floaters, or blocks/curtains that cover part or more of your vision, it’s good to seek immediate medical attention.
Any foreign objects, such as a piece of metal, a thorn, etc. that get in your eye is generally an emergency. It’s important to seek help right away and avoid rubbing your eye or trying to remove whatever the object is. It’s very easy to cause more damage. Instead, you should loosely cover the eye with a paper cup or eye shield if available and seek professional help.