8 Clear Signs That You Need an Eye Exam

8 Clear Signs That You Need an Eye Exam

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One of the most obvious indications that you need an eye exam is the inability to read a house address or a traffic sign. While these are common reason for booking yourself in with an eye doctor, these symptoms actually only represent a small proportion of the complaints that necessitate your visit with an optometrist.  There are also many other indications (almost all that are symptomless), which suggest that your vision isn’t living up to it’s true potential.

According to the Vision Impact Institute, around 60% of the world’s population requires vision correction; fortunately, 80% of that can be corrected or avoided.

One thing that can help you accurately diagnose a vision problem is by visiting an eye doctor. Everyone is not the same so it is important to get a comprehensive eye exam done every year to ensure that your eyes stay healthy and your vision remains sharp. In case you have a medical condition like some ocular disorders, previous eye trauma or eye surgery, a lazy eye, diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, you will need more frequent eye exams. If everything is fine, you should visit your eye doctor at least once every two years …but what if it’s not?

Maybe these vision changes are easily corrected with a pair of glasses or contact lenses, but only a licensed eye doctor will be able to know for sure.

Here are 8 signs that you need to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor:

You Have Trouble Focusing and Blurry Vision

Sudden blurry vision and focus problems in one or both eyes are potential signs of a potentially bigger health issue and needs to be taken very seriously. If you notice that reading your favorite book has become too fuzzy to read up close, you are likely developing vision or health issues. If you find it difficult to see objects that are far from you, then you may have nearsightedness, and/or astigmatism, a common condition involving a curvature of the eye lens or cornea or something more ominous.

Difficulty Seeing at Night

If your night vision is fading; may you need a nightlight to find your way to the bathroom in the night, or are have difficulty seeing while driving in the evening – you might be experiencing signs of early cataract development, which should be examined as soon as possible. Other symptoms of night blindness can be ruled out at this visit.

People with night blindness see poorly only in dim light or darkness and have no noticeable problems seeing under adequate lighting conditions. Even though this condition is not a actually night-blindness, the people who have it know how limiting the effects can be.

Night blindness in most cases is deterioration due to the natural aging process. This is because over time our eye lens become less clear and grow cloudy, making it difficult to see in dim light. Night blindness is also the first symptom of a cataract. Early cataract development can also increases glare and decreases the amount of light that reaches the back of your eyes.

Difficulty at the Computer

Computer screens can cause tired eyes, computer vision syndrome, and eye strain. Computer vision syndrome and eye strain are caused by our brain and eyes reacting differently to print on a computer screen than they do to print on paper. Characters on a screen don’t have the same degree of contrast and definition as the well-defined dense black characters on printed material.

All images and words on a computer screen are created by combinations of tiny points of light called pixels, which are brightest at the center and diminish toward the edges. This is why it is harder for our eyes to maintain focus. The focal point of our vision will drift off of the plane of the screen. This is called RPA (resting point of accommodation). Our eyes involuntarily move to the RPA and then strain to regain focus on the screen. This continuous flexing of muscles in our eyes creates eye strain which usually occurs after extended computer use.

An eye exam with your optometrist will also detect any additional vision problems that may contribute to computer vision syndrome. Using proper computer eye wear, such as single vision lenses or computer progressives, can prevent eye strain.

Frequent Headaches

Having very frequent headaches? This might be a sign of a vision problem. Changes in vision take place slowly and are sometimes undetectable to the patient at first. That is why headaches should be taken seriously, especially if they are re-occurring, as they can be one of the early warnings of a change in vision and a sign that you ought to schedule an eye exam. When the mechanism that helps the cornea and lens focus on images fails, the small muscles in the eyes are forced to work harder, which causes eye strain and can result in headaches. Sometimes staring at a computer screen for too long, or working in either dim or overly bright light may be the culprit.

Taking a break every hour or so to give the eyes a rest and/or adjusting your workplace’s lighting can remedy these problems. There are some common eye conditions that may result in headaches if untreated; astigmatism, where a combination of the front surface of your eye, the cornea, and the eye are oval shaped; nearsightedness,and farsightedness, which would require you to squint so you can focus your vision; presbyopia, which occurs because the lens start to become hard and inflexible with age,making it difficult to focus. They can also be triggered by more serious conditions, like glaucoma or cataracts.

Double Vision

Double vision also referred to as diplopia, can occur in one eye (monocular), or  both eyes. The various causes of double vision range from minor to very serious, which would need immediate attention.

Monocular double vision continues when the affected eye is uncovered, but you should be able to see normally when the affected eye is covered. Monocular double vision can be caused by astigmatism (an irregularly shaped cornea), dry eye, a condition where your eyes do not produce enough tears or diseases of the cornea such as keratoconus. Amblyopia (lazy eye) caused by uncorrected refractive error or problems with eye muscles, can lead to a permanent decrease in vision if not treated during childhood.
Abnormalities of the cornea or the lens, can also be an indication of double vision, as well as abnormalities of the retina, nerves or in the brain. The cornea is located at the front of the eye and acts like camera lens, helping to focus the light coming into the eye, while the retina is a light-sensitive layer placed at the back of the eye that converts light entering the eye into electrical signals. Cataracts in the lenses of the eye can also cause diplopia, but can be corrected with cataract surgery.

Double vision caused by both eyes failing to work properly is called binocular double vision. People having this condition have normal vision when either eye is covered. Those with binocular double vision have eyes that point at slightly different angles, causing them to send different images to the brain. The images from each eye are too different for the brain to create a clear, single image. This results in seeing double images. An eye exam with your optometrist is the best way to determine the cause of your double vision.

Eye Pressure

Pressure behind the eye, or a higher pressure in your eyes than normal may indicate you are at risk of developing glaucoma.  Higher than normal pressure in your eyes (your intraocular pressure (IOP)) when higher than normal can result in permanently lost vision. Pressure buildup can damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is our neural pathway that transmits everything we see to the brain.  It however doesn’t mean that everyone who experiences elevated eye pressure has glaucoma.

The aqueous of the eye is a clear fluid that is produced in the eye by the ciliary body, a structure located behind the iris. The aqueous flows through the pupil and fills the anterior chamber of the eye, which is the space between the iris and the cornea. IOP or intraocular pressure is determined by the balance between the production of the clear fluid (aqueous humor) and the drainage of the fluid inside the eye.

The aqueous drains from the eye through a structure called the trabecular meshwork, in the periphery of the anterior chamber, where the cornea and iris meet. If the ciliary body produces too much aqueous, then the pressure in the eye increases, causing high ocular pressure. Slight changes in the intraocular pressure in different seasons — or even during the course of one day — are normal.

Changes in eye pressure can be caused by genetic factors, anatomical problems, inflammation of the eye after trauma and infection, as well as medication use. It may also vary with changes in heart rate or respiration, or in some cases, it may be affected by exercise and fluid intake as well.

Consumption of caffeine and alcoholic beverages, coughing, vomiting, or even straining to lift heavy objects can cause temporary changes in eye pressure as well.

Untreated elevated intraocular pressure can eventually cause vision problems and lead to permanent vision loss. Undergoing routine eye exams is crucial.  Fortunately, glaucoma is highly treatable; but if diagnosed, or a risk of developing glaucoma, you should have your IOP measured at recommended intervals and have routine comprehensive eye exams by a Doctor of Optometry.


Your eyes can be very vulnerable to different kind of infections. There is hardly a person who have never experienced itchiness, redness, pink discoloration of the whites or swelling of the eyelids at least once in their life. If this happens, an eye exam should be scheduled right away instead of waiting for it to goes away by itself. Trying to self-diagnose your condition can delay an effective treatment from a professional and can potentially harm your sight. If you wear contact lenses, you should wear only your eyeglasses until you have visited your eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

During the exam the eye doctor will use a microscope on the affected area of your eye to identify the specific infection you might have, if any. This way the most effective treatment will be determined, and a particular antibiotic or other treatment that selectively targets the type of bacteria, virus or other vector causing the infection will be used.

Eye infections occur when harmful microorganisms invade part of your eyeball or the surrounding area. Areas include the cornea (clear front surface of the eye) and the conjunctiva (moist and thin membrane lining eye’s outer surface and inner eyelids).

Symptoms of an eye infection includes the following: pain, red eyes, light sensitivity, swollen eyes, watery eyes, dry eyes, blurry vision, itching, eye discharge and swelling around the eyes.

You are Seeing Floaters, Flashes or Have an Obstructed Vision

If you started seeing floaters or flashes of light that could be sign of a hole, detachment or a retinal tear which are all serious eye disorders that need to be checked by an ophthalmologist or optometrist as soon as possible.

The small specks moving in your field of vision are called floaters. These spots usually look like they are in the front of your eye, but they are actually floating inside. What you see are shadows that they cast on the eye retina. These “floaters” may have different shapes: circles, little dots, lines, cobwebs or clouds.

They may look to you like black or gray specks, strings or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. You may see them sometimes when you look at plain background, such as a white wall or a blue sky. You may initially mistake them for dust floating in the air, but then notice that they will appear to move as you move your eyes and even appear to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

Most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid and the different densities cause shadows on the back of your light sensitive eye. Just like if you dropped a transparent marble in your swimming pool on a sunny day, this globule being of a different density would cause a shadow on your pool’s bottom.  These appear to you as floaters.

Floaters, especially when they are accompanied by flashes of light, can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.

Flashes are the result of the vitreous gel pulling on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. These are called ‘flashes’. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars.” The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months.

As we age, it is more common to experience flashes and floaters as the vitreous gel changes, gradually pulling away from the inside back surface of the eye (retina).

Floaters might remain in the vision, but many of them will may fade over time or simply become ignored by your brain as well.  If you’ve had floaters for an extended term, but suddenly develop additional new floaters, an eye exam should be scheduled, and especially so if flashes develop.

For people who have floaters that are simply annoying, no treatment is recommended.

On rare occasions, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they significantly affect vision. In these cases, a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that removes floaters from the vitreous, may be needed.

A vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel, along with its floating debris, from the eye. The vitreous is replaced with a salt solution. Because the vitreous is mostly water, you will not notice any change between the salt solution and the original vitreous.

This operation carries significant risks to sight because of possible complications, which include retinal detachment, retinal tears, and cataract. Most eye surgeons are reluctant to recommend this surgery unless the floaters seriously interfere with vision.

Image Optometry has the solution to all of your eye problems. Visit one of our 17 locations in BC.

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