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What Eye Problems Require Immediate Attention?

eye-rub-businessmanYou should call us if you have continuing symptoms of pain, visual disturbance, or light sensitivity. These symptoms could mean you have serious problems that  require prompt treatment.  A person can permanently  lose vision within a day or two from some of these conditions without treatment.  The following are some symptoms that would warrant prompt medical attention:

Increased light sensitivity:

1. Corneal abrasions cause pain, and sometimes blur, and increased light sensitivity.  This diagnosis is usually obvious to the patient because there was an injury to the eye that caused this problem.

2.  Uveitis is another common cause of light sensitivity. This is an internal inflammation of the eye that can cause very serious complications if not treated early.  Uveitis also becomes very painful as it worsens.  we can easily treat it with potent steroids and cyclopleging eye drops. It is much easier to treat in the early stages.

3.   Corneal ulcers cause pain and light sensitivity.  These are serious and most commonly occur in people who sleep in their contact lenses.  If the ulcer is caused by Pseudomonas bacteria, the eye can be lost within 48 hours.  Fortunately most ulcers can not caused by Pseudomonas.   We treat ulcers with antibiotics and daily monitoring of the ulcer until it is cured.

Loss of vision or distorted vision:

Retinal problems can cause a rapid blurring or loss of vision in one or both eyes.  The retina is the tissue in the back of the eye where the visual image is formed.  Common problems include retinal hemorrhages, tears or detachment, macular bleeding, retinal vascular occlusion or optic nerve problems.  These are all serious conditions that require us to see you immediately. Retinal detachments are especially important to treat diagnosis and treat rapidly.  The retina is the tissue in the back of the eye where visual images are created.  Warning signs of retinal detachments may include flashes of light, new or increased numbers of floaters, and/or a painless loss of peripheral vision.   We had one patient who noticed a dark area in the periphery of one eye.  She waited days to see if it would improve.  Each day the non-seeing area increased in size.   After about one week she came to see us but by then it was too late.  The retinal detachment was treated but she had permanent vision loss.


This could be from abrasions, corneal ulcers, uveitis, angle-closure glaucoma or corneal foreign bodies.  Foreign bodies of all types can become lodged in the cornea.  It is especially important to see you promptly if the foreign body is metal.  Iron fragments will rust rapidly and this complicates the treatment.  We have to remove the foreign body and the rust.  The longer it is in the cornea, the more difficult it is to remove all the rust. Sometimes the foreign bodies get stuck under the eyelids and cause pain or a scratchy sensation with each blink.  Pain is also present in angle-closure glaucoma.  This is were the internal eye pressure because very high and can cause blindness within  a short time period.

When to call us

It is often hard for patients to know if their condition is serious.  When in doubt, CALL US.  Our staff will listen to your symptoms and get you in immediately if the symptoms indicate that it may be serious.  Many of these eye problems can rapidly get worse and may cause permanent loss of vision if not treated in time.  We have not listed all the potential problems and symptoms in this short discussion - give us a call if you have any unusual symptoms.

We also  have an emergency after hours telephone number.  When in doubt, call us anytime.  We would much rather see you as soon as possible for emergency problems.  This  includes weekends or evenings.  Please note that the after-hours emergency service is limited to current patients and their families.  If you or a member of your family are a patient of ours, we can be reached at910.583.5953  or 910.797.4909.  We are happy to talk with you after hours to determine if your problem may be serious.  If for some reason  you can not reach us, then visit your hospital emergency room.