Eye Symptoms

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What are eye problems?

Eye symptoms include vision problems, such as blurred vision, and many other symptoms, such as eye pain, and discharge or bleeding from the eye.

A variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions can lead to eye symptoms. Eye symptoms, such as blurred vision, can result from minor problems, such as nearsightedness or wearing the wrong eyeglasses. However, eye symptoms can also result from infection, inflammation, trauma, malignancy (cancer), and other abnormal processes. It is not possible to determine the seriousness of your eye symptoms on your own. See your doctor right away if you have eye symptoms.

Certain types of eye symptoms can indicate a medical emergency, which can lead to loss of sight, such as with glaucoma, an eye injury, or retinal detachment, or loss of life, such as in the case of stroke or bleeding in the brain. Because eye and vision problems can result from serious conditions, such as stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), hypertension, epilepsy and migraine, it is important to see your doctor or health care provider right away when you experience eye symptoms.

Types of eye symptoms

Eye symptoms vary and depend on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Typical eye symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the eye
  • Bump on the eyeball or eyelid
  • Decreased color perception
  • Discharge from the eye
  • Droopy eyelid (ptosis)
  • Dry eyes
  • Eye irritation
  • Eye pain
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Increased tear production
  • Itchy eyes
  • Vision problems, such as blind spots, blurry vision, loss of peripheral vision, floaters, halos, sensitivity to light, and poor nighttime vision

    Eye symptoms may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms affecting other areas of your body including pain, fatigue and fever. If you are experiencing other symptoms along with your eye symptoms, be sure to tell your health care provider. This information will help your doctor diagnose the reason for your eye symptoms.

    Any change in vision should always be evaluated by a medical professional. Eye symptoms can be due to very serious and life-threatening diseases and conditions, such as encephalitis, a brain tumor, or retinal detachment. If you experience eye symptoms with a sudden, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, or vomiting, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

    What other symptoms might occur with eye symptoms?

    Eye symptoms may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. For example, vision problems due to a refractive error, such as nearsightedness, may only be accompanied by a minor headache; whereas, vision problems due to a stroke may occur along with memory loss and difficulty understanding speech.

    You may experience problems with the eye itself, or you may have symptoms that affect other body systems, such as the neuromuscular and immune systems. Eye symptoms such as blurred vision and eye pain occurring along with joint pain and stiffness may indicate an autoimmune disorder. Many people find out that they have diabetes or high blood pressure as a result of a clinic visit for eye symptoms. Eye cancer symptoms may include painless blurry vision, a growing dark spot on the iris, elevated pressure within the eye, or a change in the position of the eyeball.

    Although glaucoma is often asymptomatic in the early stages, increased eye pressure symptoms that suggest glaucoma may include blurred vision, halos, eye pain and a gradual loss of peripheral vision. Eye infection symptoms may include discharge from the eye, vision problems, redness and swollen eyelids.

    Other symptoms that may occur along with eye symptoms

    Eye symptoms may accompany signs and symptoms related to other body parts including:

    • Butterfly-shaped rash over bridge of nose and cheeks
    • Drooping eyelids
    • Fever
    • High blood pressure
    • Neck stiffness
    • Trouble concentrating

    Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

    In some cases, eye symptoms may occur along with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms:

    • Blurred vision or other vision symptoms after head trauma

    • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

    • Difficulty understanding speech

    • Garbled or slurred speech or inability to speak

    • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

    • Memory loss

    • Numbness or paralysis on one side of the body

    • Seeing halos around lights, blind spots, or distorted vision

    • Seizure

    • Severe headache

    • Sudden change in vision, loss of vision, or eye pain

    • Weakness (loss of strength)

    What causes eye symptoms?

    While eye symptoms may be mild and not a cause for concern, they can also be an indication of a very serious medical condition. Eye symptoms can be due to problems with the eye itself, as well as neurological and autoimmune disorders.

    Optical or eye-related causes of eye symptoms

    Eye symptoms can be caused by several kinds of common vision problems that are easily treated including:

    • Astigmatism (when light rays do not focus clearly at one point on the retina due to the unequal curvature of the surface of the eye)

    • Dry eyes

    • Eye irritation

    • Farsightedness (hyperopia, when eyes focus better on distant objects than near objects)

    • Nearsightedness (myopia, when eyes focus better on near objects than distant objects)

    • Presbyopia (gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus on near objects due to aging)

    • Wrong prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses

    Diseases and conditions of the eye that cause eye symptoms

    Diseases, disorders and conditions that cause eye symptoms include:

    • Corneal ulcer
    • Eye cancer (primary or metastatic)
    • Glaucoma (where fluid pressure builds up in the eye, including narrow angle glaucoma and acute angle glaucoma)
    • Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve)
    • Retinal detachment (detachment of the light-sensing layer inside your eye from the blood vessels that provide it oxygen and nutrients)
    • Uveitis and iritis (inflammation of the uvea)

    Autoimmune causes of eye symptoms

    Some autoimmune diseases result in eye symptoms including:

    • Graves disease
    • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
    • Sjogren’s syndrome
    • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)
    • Wegener’s granulomatosis

    Other causes of eye symptoms

    Various other diseases, disorders and conditions that cause eye symptoms include:

    • Amphetamines and other illicit drugs
    • Migraine
    • Recreational drug use or withdrawal
    • Sarcoidosis (inflammatory disease most commonly affecting the lungs, skin and eyes)
    • Transient ischemic attack (also known as TIA, temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

      Life-threatening causes of eye symptoms

      In some cases, eye symptoms may be a sign of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

      • Atherosclerotic emboli (plaque that travels to the brain can cause a stroke)
      • Brain hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
      • Brain tumor
      • Encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain due to a viral infection or other causes)
      • Orbital cellulitis (invasive infection of the soft tissues around the eye)
      • Retinal artery blockage due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
      • Vertebrobasilar insufficiency

      What are the potential complications of eye symptoms?

      Complications associated with eye symptoms depend on the underlying disease, disorder or condition, as well the accompanying symptoms. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled diseases can be serious and fatal. For example, a delay in treating glaucoma can lead to loss of sight and a delay in treating a brain hemorrhage can cause severe disability or death. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, you can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Over time, the underlying cause of eye problems can lead to serious complications including:

      • Loss of sight (blindness)
      • Loss of the eye and orbit (bony part surrounding the eye globe)
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      Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
      Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 10
      THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
      1. Vision problems. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003029.htm.
      2. Eye cancer. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/eyecancer.html.
      3. Facts about glaucoma. National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/glaucoma_facts.asp.