Eye danger signs you can’t afford to ignore

January 10, 2011

FLOATERS – WHEN TO WORRY: If the occasional floater turns into a sudden “cobweb” of squiggles, especially with associated flashes, or one single, large floater that won’t disappear. This is a sign of vitreous detachment, where the vitreous jelly pulls away from the retina.

COLORED LIGHTS – WHEN TO WORRY: If the multi-coloured lights last for longer than 30 minutes, it could signify a detached retina.

Unlike ocular migraines, these are almost always in one eye, so put a hand over one eye and see if it’s the same on both sides. If it lasts for more than 30 minutes and affects only one eye, head to A&E – you may need surgery to re-attach the retina.

FOGGINESS (Misty, blurred vision)

WHEN TO WORRY: If an eye test rules out short-sightedness and the fogginess has appeared suddenly and isn’t eased by eye drops, the problem could be related to blood circulation.

A blood vessel blockage at the back of the eye can cause fogginess. It may be accompanied by loss of the top part of your vision, so you wouldn’t be able to see objects in front and above you without tilting your head.

In effect, this is a “mini-stroke” in your eye. This generally happens in people over 50. Head to your GP straight away – a full-blown stroke could be on the way.

HALLUCINATIONS – when people start losing their sight – most commonly due to age-related macular degeneration or sometimes glaucoma – their brains don’t receive as many pictures and new fantasy pictures or old pictures stored in our brains are released and experienced as real objects. It’s a condition known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS),

TREATMENT: There is no treatment of proven effectiveness for CBS. It usually disappears within 18 months, as experience teaches the brain the hallucinations aren’t real.

For those experiencing CBS, knowing they are suffering from this syndrome and not a mental illness seems to be the best treatment, as it helps them cope with the hallucinations. Interrupting the hallucination for a short time by closing the eyes or blinking is sometimes helpful.

TUNNEL VISION – WHEN TO WORRY: Tunnel vision can also be caused by glaucoma. This is where the eye produces too much fluid or does not drain enough away, increasing pressure in the eyeball, which can damage the optic nerve and cause tunnel vision, among other symptoms. The damage caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed, but if caught early, it can be stopped by medicated eye drops – eye tests are essential.

LOSS OF NIGHT VISION – If you’re losing night vision and also experiencing tunnel vision, it could be caused by retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of genetic eye diseases that cause progressive loss of vision. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about it.