When something doesn't feel right with your vision, it's easy to think that the eyes themselves are to blame. While that is often the case, subtle changes to your eyes can signal health problems that have nothing to do with the eyes. In fact, there are several conditions, some chronic (some even life-threatening), that could be behind your eye troubles, so it's important to pay attention to the warning signs.
My daughter was recently complaining of blurry vision, and what I initially chalked up to her needing to see an eye specialist quickly escalated to her needing a CT-scan. It was a nerve-wracking process to say the least, and one that fortunately ended with a benign diagnosis, but it definitely made me all too aware that eye symptoms can be a sign of broader health problems.
In fact, if you're experiencing blurry or dimming vision, the cause could be neurological rather than ocular. "Many neurological diseases manifest with ocular symptoms because so much of the human brain is involved in vision and visual processing," explained Steven Feldon, M.D., in an interview with Healio Ocular Surgery News (OSN).
Below you'll find several other explanations for those unexplained and unexpected eye problems. The most important thing is to seek medical attention if you're experiencing anything suspicious.
1. Vision Issues In One Eye
If you're experiencing vision issues in one eye, the culprit could be optic neuritis, according to Mayo Clinic, which cites eye pain, temporary vision loss in one eye, visual field loss, loss of color vision and flashing lights as possible symptoms.
Optic neuritis is an inflammation that damages the optic nerve, according to Mayo Clinic, and while it is serious in its own right, it also can be a red flag for chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis. "About one-third of cases of multiple sclerosis first present as optic neuritis, said Dr. Feldon in the OSN interview. "And up to 50 percent of patients with multiple sclerosis develop optic neuritis at some point."
2. Eye Floaters & Retina Issues
It's not uncommon to have an occasional floater in your eye, but if you're experiencing regular floaters, or your doctor notices changes in the color or shape of the retina, it could be a sign of Diabetes mellitus (diabetes), explains Richard A. Honaker, M.D., Chief Medical Advisor for Your Doctors Online, in an interview with Romper.
Type 2 Diabetes is a condition "that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal," according to the American Diabetes Association, which notes that blurry vision can be one of the initial symptoms of this chronic disease.
3. Can't Close One Eye
If you find yourself suddenly not being able to close one eye, the culprit may be Bell's Palsy, according to VSP. Bell's Palsy is a temporary weakness or paralysis of a facial nerve, and for most people, that means not being able to blink on the affected side of the face, explained All About Vision.
The good news is that roughly 80 percent of people with Bell's Palsy will recover within six months, according to All About Vision, which still cautioned that without proper care of the affected eye, there could be permanent damage such as corneal ulceration and scarring of the eye's surface.
4. Dry Eyes
Do you have dry, irritated eyes? If so, those symptoms may be less ophthalmological and more autoimmune-based.
Lupus, Sjogren's syndrome, and Behcet's disease, are all autoimmune disorders that can first present themselves as eye complications, according to Dr. Honaker.
5. Sudden Eye Lid Droop
A sudden eyelid drop, should be taken seriously, as it could be a sign of a brain aneurism, according to VSP.
"If an aneurysm presses on nerves in your brain, you could experience a droopy eyelid, change in your vision, pain above or behind the eye, a dilated pupil and numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body," reported Hawaii News Now.
But, it's important to note that aneurisms are rare (approximately 8 – 10 per 100,000 people), according to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
6. Blurry Vision
Your diet might also be the culprit for your subtle eye changes, like blurry vision.
In fact, nutritional deficiencies (particularly related to Vitamins A, B12, and D) can present themselves through eye complications, according to Dr. Honaker.
Interestingly, fad diets — amongst other things — could be "opening the door to the genesis of an entirely new set of nutritionally-based diseases and disorders," according to Larry J Alexander, O.D. F.A.A.O, in a paper published by the American Optometric Association.
So, before you jump on the latest diet trend of 2019, make sure that it will be supporting your holistic health.
With some serious health conditions tied to ocular issues, it's a good idea to seek medical attention if you feel anything at all is off with your eyes.
As Dr. Honaker notes, some of the conditions discussed above can have serious consequences which can "affect quality and quantity of life if not discovered and treated early," or when the eye symptoms begin to manifest. But like anything, you should definitely get a full evaluation from a medical professional before convincing yourself you might be suffering from a serious ailment.
In any case, I know I'll be paying way more attention to my eyes moving forward, and definitely scheduling that long overdue eye exam.