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Eye Problems, Noninjury


Topic Overview

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

See a picture of the eyeClick here to see an illustration..

Common eye problems

Common types of eye problems include:

It is common for the eyes to be irritated or have a scratchy feeling. Pain is not a common eye problem unless there has been an injury. It is not unusual for the eyes to be slightly sensitive to light. But sudden, painful sensitivity to light is a serious problem that may mean glaucoma or inflammation of the muscles that control the pupil (iritis) and should be evaluated by your doctor.

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

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

  • Vision changes. These may include:
    • Trouble adjusting your vision when entering a dark room.
    • Trouble focusing on close or faraway objects.
    • Dark spots in the center of your vision field.
    • Lines or edges that appear wavy.
  • Eyelid problems, such as a stye or chalazion (a small, hard lump).
  • Discharge or irritation of the eyeball or eyelids, such as an infection of the inner edge of the lower eyelid (dacryocystitis) or pinkeye (conjunctivitis).
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia).
  • Inability 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.

People often tolerate 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.

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

Some children may have special risks for eye problems. Vision screening is recommended 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. See tips for spotting eye problems in your child. The first screening is recommended about 4 to 7 weeks after birth.1

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

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