Understanding Vision Problems -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Common Vision Problems?

Nearsightedness : Blurry vision that gets worse when you look at distant objects. Your doctor will call it myopia. You may have very good close vision.

Farsightedness : Blurry vision when you look at close up objects. Near and far objects may both look fuzzy. The doctor will say you have hyperopia.

Astigmatism : You might have blurry or double vision at any distance. You may also be nearsighted or farsighted.

Detached retina : You’ll notice a sudden onset of flashing lights often paired with black floaters in your vision. It won’t hurt, but at first you might see a dark curtain or veil covering a portion of your vision. Cover one eye and then the other and compare the sight in each one.

Color blindness : You have trouble with shades or intensity of colors. Because it’s all about perception, you may not know there’s a problem until the doctor finds it. This genetic condition mainly affects men.

Night blindness : It’s hard to see objects in dim light.

Cataracts : Because they develop slowly, your first symptom may be trouble with the vision test for your driver's license renewal. Or your doctor could spot it during a routine eye exam. Symptoms include:

  • Hazy vision that might be worse in bright light
  • Weaker vision at night, particularly when driving; trouble seeing movement, details, or objects (especially street signs)
  • Blinding or uncomfortable glare from automobile headlights or bright sunlight
  • A need for brighter light for reading
  • Colors look faded or yellow
  • Double or triple vision (images overlap) in one eye only
  • A normally dark pupil looks milky white or opaque (advanced cases)
  • Painful inflammation and pressure within the eye (very advanced case)

Strabismus: Your eyes don't move together as they should. Both eyes or just one could be crossed inward or outward. A child who has it may rub one or both eyes often. She could also squint, tilt her head, or close one eye to see things better.

Glaucoma: Symptoms may depend on the type of glaucoma:

  • Chronic open-angle glaucoma: No symptoms until it’s caused serious eye damage.
  • Acute glaucoma: A sudden onset of severe throbbing eye pain, headaches, blurred vision, rainbow halos around lights, red eyes, nausea, and vomiting. It’s a medical emergency.
  • Secondary glaucoma: This type results from an injury, inflammation, a drug, cataracts, or diabetes. Your symptoms will be tied to the cause.
  • Congenital glaucoma: This type affects infants. You’ll notice teary or cloudy eyes, unusual sensitivity to light, and enlarged corneas. It can affect one or both eyes.


Macular degeneration :

  • Dim or wavy vision, especially when you read. Straight lines often look crooked.
  • Gradual, painless loss of precise central vision.
  • Blank spots in your central field of vision.

Call the doctor about vision problems if you:

  • Have symptoms of retinal detachment such as floaters or flashes of light in your vision. You need immediate treatment to save vision in that eye.
  • Feel like a dark curtain covers part of your side vision. Call right away to rule out other serious causes of this problem, like stroke.
  • Become unusually sensitive to bright light. You may have inflammation inside your eye (iritis/uveitis).
  • Have a foreign object in your eye that won’t come out with water. If you don’t treat it, you could scar your eye or get an infection.
  • Have discomfort when you wear contacts or have pain that won't go away even after you take the contact out. You may have a scratch, inflamed cornea (the doctor will call this keratitis), or a corneal ulcer.
  • Get an eye injury that affects your vision. You might have internal bleeding or a fracture of the bone around your eye. This is a medical emergency.

A good rule of thumb: Go to the doctor if you have any unusual:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Pain
  • Discharge
  • Vision changes


WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brian S. Boxer Wachler, MD on September 12, 2018



Bradford, C. (Editor) Basic Ophthalmology, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2004. 

The Mayo Clinic: "Eye Care."

Macular Degeneration Partnership.

Glaucoma Research Foundation: “Secondary Glaucoma.”

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