Signs and Symptoms of Vision Problems

Edited by Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT

Preventive Eye Care and Eye Examinations Are Important

Just as with annual physical examinations, it's equally important to have regular eye examinations. An annual eye examination is appropriate for most people.

If you have glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, or a family history of eye diseases or disorders, regular monitoring and more frequent visits may be required.

It's important to discuss your health care situation with your primary care doctor and your eye doctor and make sure you follow his or her advice about ongoing appointments, medications, and/or treatments. Prevention is an important component of eye care.

Some eye conditions and diseases are hereditary and family members may need to be monitored regularly by a general physician and an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Signs and Symptoms of Possible Vision Problems

If you experience any of the following eye changes, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately, even if you've been to your eye doctor recently:

  • Severe, sudden eye pain
  • Recurrent pain in or around the eye
  • Hazy, blurred, or double vision
  • Seeing flashes of light or sudden bright floating spots
  • Seeing rainbows or halos around lights
  • Seeing floating "spider webs"
  • Seeing a "curtain coming down" over one eye
  • Sensing a "cup filling up with ink" in one eye
  • Unusual, even painful, sensitivity to light or glare
  • Swollen, red eyes
  • Changes in the color of the iris
  • White areas in the pupil of the eye
  • Sudden development of persistent floaters
  • Itching, burning, or a heavy discharge in the eyes
  • Any sudden change in vision
  • See also Normal Vision Changes to help you understand normal age-related changes in the eyes and your vision.

Tom McCarville, Co-Founder, E.A.R.S. for EYES Vision Rehabilitation Services

Tom McCarville head shot

Fifteen years ago, Tom McCarville was a photographer and lighting engineer, running his own company with his partner Martha Parisian. With combined experience in movie making, television, and commercial photography, Tom and Martha had a successful media business and were climbing their joint ladder of success.

Life changed when Tom decided to visit his eye doctor and purchase a more modern pair of eyeglass frames. He was given the news that he had permanently lost 20% of his peripheral vision through glaucoma. "The disease is out of control," he was told by his ophthalmologist.

Learn more about Tom's struggle with glaucoma and his subsequent career reinvention as a vision rehabilitation therapist, and learn these facts about glaucoma:

Other Indicators of Possible Vision Problems

Other indications of possible vision problems may include problems with the following daily living activities:

Moving Around

  • Having difficulty walking on irregular or bumpy surfaces
  • Walking or stepping hesitantly
  • Going up and down stairs slowly and cautiously
  • Shuffling the feet
  • Brushing against walls while walking
  • Missing objects by under-reaching or over-reaching

Everyday Activities

  • Discontinuing or doing certain activities differently such as reading, watching television, driving, walking, or engaging in hobbies
  • Squinting or tilting the head to the side to focus on an object
  • Having difficulty identifying faces or objects
  • Having trouble locating personal objects, even in a familiar environment
  • Reaching out for objects in an uncertain manner
  • Having trouble identifying colors
  • Selecting clothing in unusual combinations of colors or patterns

Eating and Drinking

  • Having problems getting food onto a fork
  • Having difficulty cutting food or serving from a serving dish
  • Spilling food off the plate while eating
  • Pouring liquids over the top of a cup or drinking glass
  • Knocking over glasses while reaching across the table for another item

Reading and Writing

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