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Many people have minor eye problems, such as eye strain, irritated eyes, or itchy, scaly eyelids (blepharitis). These problems may be ongoing (chronic), but they usually aren't serious. Home treatment can relieve the symptoms of many minor eye problems.
Common types of eye problems include:
It's fairly common for the eyes to be irritated or have a scratchy feeling. Pain isn't a common eye problem unless there has been an injury. It's not unusual for the eyes to be slightly sensitive to light. But sudden, painful sensitivity to light is a serious problem. It may be a sign of glaucoma or inflammation of the muscles that control the pupil (iritis). Have it checked by your doctor.
People often live with 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.
Sudden problems such as new vision changes, pain in the eye, or increased drainage are often more serious. They should be checked by a doctor. Eye symptoms that are new or that occur suddenly may be checked by an emergency medicine specialist.
Ongoing (chronic) eye problems that may be getting worse are usually checked by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist). A gradual change in your vision or chronic eye problems may include:
As you reach your 40s and 50s, it's common to have some vision changes and maybe to need glasses. Some of the changes may also cause other symptoms, like headaches and nausea. These symptoms can affect your ability to function.
Some children may have special risks for eye problems. Vision screening is advised for infants who were either born at or before 30 weeks, whose birth weight was 1250 g (2.8 lb) or less, or who are at high risk for vision problems. Most vision problems are noticed first by the parents. The first screening is recommended about 4 to 9 weeks after birth.footnote 1
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Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Many prescription and non-prescription medicines can cause eye problems or changes in vision. A few examples are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Home treatment may give some relief from eye symptoms. If you are caring for a child who can't hold still, ask another adult for help if needed.
This includes taking out your contacts if you use them.
Use whichever feels the best.
Take out your contacts, if you use them. Put your face in a pan of water, or use a low pressure kitchen sink sprayer. Keep your eyes open.
Avoid bright lights and use dark glasses.
If needed, use over-the-counter eyedrops, such as artificial tear solutions.
Follow the directions on how to use them.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
CitationsJefferies AL (2016). Retinopathy of prematurity: An update on screening and management. Paediatrics and Child Health, 21(2): 101–104. http://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/retinopathy-of-prematurity-screening. Accessed June 1, 2016.
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineJohn Pope MD - Pediatrics
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics
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