Many people have minor eye problems, such as eyestrain, irritated
eyes, or itchy, scaly eyelids (blepharitis). 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
Common types of eye problems
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
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
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
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
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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Home treatment measures may give
you some relief from your eye symptoms.
To learn how to use eyedrops and eye ointment, see:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
For treatment information for these common eye problems, see the topics:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
Take good care of your eyes to prevent
People who have diabetes are at risk for a vision problem
diabetic retinopathy, which is a complication of
having high blood sugar over a long time. People who have diabetes need regular
eye exams so that the early stages of diabetic retinopathy can be detected and
in some cases treated. They also need to keep their blood sugar levels as close
to normal as possible to prevent blood vessel damage from long-term high blood
It is important to protect your children's vision. Regular
eye exams identify problems early, and corrective measures can be taken.
Watching a lot of television, playing video games, or frequent computer use can
decrease your child's natural blink reflex, which can cause dry, red, and
irritated eyes. Most vision problems are noticed first by the parents. See
tips for spotting eye problems in your child.
For tips on how to prevent eye infections, see the topic
For tips on how to prevent eye
injuries, see the topic
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
CitationsAmerican Academy of Pediatrics Section on
Ophthalmology, et al. (2006). Screening examination of premature infants for
retinopathy of prematurity. Pediatrics, 117(2): 572–576.
[Errata in Pediatrics, 117(4): 1468 and Pediatrics,
May 4, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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