Eye Problems

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Eye problems, including eye pain or redness and changes in your vision may be signs of a problem that requires medical attention. Follow the chart below for more information about problems with your eyes.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
Begin Here

1. Is your eye tearing?


Yes

Go to Question 11.**

No

2. Do you have blurred vision?

Go to Question 8.*

No

3. Have you recently injured your eye, and are you experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • sudden appearance of spots and strings floating in your field of vision;
  • flashes of light in 1 or both eyes;
  • partial loss of vision?

Yes

You may have a serious and urgent problem, such as a DETACHED RETINA.

URGENT
CALL YOUR EYE DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY.

No

4. Is your eye red, do you have severe eye pain, or has your vision suddenly decreased or become cloudy?


Yes

Your symptoms may be from ACUTE GLAUCOMA, a condition caused by a rise in eye pressure that can cause permanent vision damage or blindness.

URGENT
If you have these symptoms, call your doctor right away.

No

5. Are you experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and a pain in one or both temples?


Yes

Your symptoms may be a sign of a serious inflammatory condition called TEMPORAL ARTERITIS.

SEE YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY.

No

6. Do you have thick nasal drainage and pain or pressure on your forehead and behind your eyes?


Yes

SINUSITIS (an infection of the sinuses) may be the cause of your pain.

Use a cold or sinus medicine, and drink lots of fluids. Warm facial compresses may also help relieve the pain. If your symptoms don't improve, or if you have constant fever or severe pain, see your doctor as soon as possible.

No

7. Are your eyes red or sensitive to light, are you experiencing eye pain, and do you see dark, floating spots?

You may have an inflammation inside the eye called IRITIS.

See your doctor or an eye specialist right away.

No

*8. Do you have diabetes, and have you noticed any changes in your vision?


Yes

Over time, too much glucose (sugar) in the blood can cause eye problems.

Tell your doctor about the vision changes you have experienced. He or she can give you advice on preventing eye problems.

No

9. Does your toddler have crossed eyes?


Yes

Crossed eyes, or STRABISMUS, can occur when eye muscles become weak or when there is a loss or lack of vision in one eye.

Have your child checked by an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).

No

10. Are your eyes red, itchy or swollen, or is there a bite-like swelling on one of your eyelids?


Yes

Your symptoms may be from an ALLERGY or an INSECT BITE.

Use a cool compress and take an antihistamine to relieve discomfort. See your doctor if the swelling doesn't get better or if you have a fever.

No

**11. Do you have a fever, and is your eye swollen and tender to the touch?


Yes

These may be signs of a serious eye infection called PERIORBITAL CELLULITIS.

URGENT
SEE YOUR DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY.

No

12. Is there a firm, painful lump in the eyelid or a tender "pimple" on the edge of the eyelid?


Yes

You may have either a CHALAZION or a HORDEOLUM; both are types of STIES.

Sties usually heal in 5 to 7 days. To relieve the pain, apply warm compresses for 10 to 15 minutes, 4 times a day and take mild pain relievers. If the bump grows or doesn't go away, see your doctor. If the redness spreads or swells quickly, seek help promptly.

No

13. Is the white of the eye pink, red or irritated, and are there any secretions or mucus from the eye?


Yes

CONJUNCTIVITIS, also called "PINK EYE," can be caused by a virus or bacteria.

Conjunctivitis is very contagious, so avoid contact with the eye and wash your hands often. Try over-the-counter eyedrops and apply warm compresses to relieve any discomfort.

If there's no improvement, you may have a more serious form of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis. See your doctor promptly.

No

14. Is your eye red, is your vision blurry and do you feel like you have sand in your eye?


Yes

This sensation may be from a SCRATCHED CORNEA or from a small particle under the eyelid.

Rinse your eye with clean water or a saline solution. If the sensation doesn't go away, see your doctor as soon as possible.

No

15. Do you have a burning sensation in the eye, is the eye red and itchy, and is the skin around the eye scaling?


Yes

This chronic irritation is called BLEPHARITIS.

Apply warm compresses and wash your eye gently with an eyewash and washcloth. If the problem doesn't resolve, see your doctor.

No

16. Do you wear contact lenses, and do you have eye pain?


Yes

You may have an irritation from contact lens overuse or a more serious eye condition caused by your contact lenses.

Remove your contact lenses and let your eyes rest for a while. If the redness or irritation doesn't go away, see your eye care professional.

No
For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think your problem is serious, call your doctor right away.  

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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