Issues with the eyes should be taken seriously as they can be a good indicator of what’s going on systemically.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, but they can also be windows into your health. Dr. Anjali Patel, an optometrist with LasikPlus in Atlanta says issues with the eyes should be taken seriously as they can be a good indicator of what’s going on systemically. “I consider myself a primary eye doctor, a gateway to other doctors, because there are symptoms we can see in the eyes that can be early indicators of more serious health issues,” she says.
For this reason, Patel encourages everyone to get an annual eye exam as part of their regular health checkups. Additionally, there are some particular symptoms that indicate you might want to book an appointment with an optometrist ASAP, as they could indicate a need for a new prescription or even something more serious, and they might not all be so obvious. Here are five symptoms Patel says should have you calling your eye doctor to get checked out.
Seeing double, whether it looks like the car in front of you has two license plates or the friend you’re talking to has two faces, can definitely be concerning. Patel says that this doesn’t always mean something serious though.
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“Many things can cause double vision, from dry eyes to diabetes or low blood sugar or something more long term like astigmatism or cataracts,” she says. So before you call for that appointment, assess whether this is something that’s happening all the time or just sometimes. See if it sticks around after you control your blood sugar or try a lubricating eye drop. If it does? Book that appointment. It could be an indication of something as simple as an astigmatism or the need for a refractive correction, but it could be caused by a nerve in the eye not working properly or indicate something more serious.
This one probably seems like an obvious one, but if you’ve noticed your vision becoming blurry it’s probably a good time for an optometrist appointment. “You might notice blurry vision especially while driving, or that it’s worse at night,” says Patel. “We also see a lot of students coming in who say they can’t see the board anymore all of a sudden, that’s a good indication to come in and see what’s going on.”
In this case, you can expect a full initial consultation. Your doctor should ask about how long it’s been going on, if symptoms have been getting worse and then check your vision, eye pressure and probably dilate your eyes to check your retina and optic nerve. If they find a refractive error in your vision, they’ll offer a prescription to correct it so glasses, contacts or even refractive surgery can be the answer.
Headaches are complicated and can obviously be caused by a variety of things, but Patel says they can be an indicator for something happening in the eyes. “Some people just get headaches, there’s no way to pinpoint a type of headache or intensity of headache that can indicate there’s an ocular reason for them.”
Like with dry eyes, you may want to see if the headaches get better with a change in your environment or diet — if not, give the optometrist a call to see if they can help. “There are conditions that affect the optic nerve that can cause headaches, which is more serious, but it can also be something as simple as you’ve developed a prescription need or your prescription has changed and so your eyes can’t focus as well and straining and squinting is causing the headaches.”
Gritty, itchy eyes
Itchy eyes aren’t uncommon, especially this time of year, says Patel. “You’ll probably think it’s allergies,” she says. But, she adds that if it feels like there’s something in your eye, a gritty, sandy sensation, it could be a condition caused by one of the layers of tear film lubricating your eyes being thinner than the other.
Your doctor will be able to prescribe eye drops, Omega-3 fatty acids or help clean up your lids to control some of the inflammation.
Flashes and floaters
You know the little floaters in your eyes you can see if you look up at a blue sky or zone out at a blank wall? Those are mostly normal. But sometimes they can be an indication of something else going on. “If you see a black or gray spot come across your vision and you wait and it doesn’t go away, or if you see a flash of light in your eyes periphery multiple times, that’s a big reason to come in,” says Patel.
And with this one, Patel says, don’t delay. “If you’ve never noticed a floater or a flash before, it’s pretty urgent to let your doctor know. It can be nothing concerning at all, but it could be something serious, like a retinal detachment or retinal tear.”
If treated early, a tear can be addressed relatively easily. “The problem is a lot of times when people see something but don’t feel anything, they put off going to the doctor, but if it is a retinal tear or detachment and you wait too long and it turns into a full detachment, that will be way more serious and require an invasive surgery to fix — better to just come in and get checked in the first place.”
LasikPlus offers multiple treatment options, including LASIK and PRK eye surgery to meet your unique vision-correction needs. Get your free consultation today.