Heed the Warning: What Eye-Related Symptoms Can Tell You

It seems that when we think of eye-related symptoms, such as blurred vision, we assume that our eyes alone are the source of the problem. And that is often the case. However, there are times when a person experiences an eye-related symptom, and it's actually a sign of a problem rooted somewhere else in the body.

Heed the Warning: What Eye-Related Symptoms Can Tell You

Heed the Warning: What Eye-Related Symptoms Can Tell You

When we think of eye-related symptoms, such as blurred vision, we might assume that our eyes alone are the source of the problem – and, that’s often the case. However, there are some eye-related symptoms that can actually point to problems somewhere else in the body.

Jeffrey S. Pelson, OD, FAAO, a doctor in Grants Pass, OR, states that, "Regular eye exams are critical because what may seem like a vision-related problem might not be, and could be a sign of something else. An optometrist is sometimes the first person to notice a medical issue, and will then refer the patient to his or her physician for follow up."

Here are examples of eye-related symptoms that could be warning of the presence of another condition or disease:

  • Bulging eyes: Graves' disease (hyperthyroidism)
  • Chronic eyelid droop in both eyes, or double vision: Myasthenia gravis (autoimmune disease where nerves are unable to communicate with the muscles)
  • Haze, blurred vision, dimness of vision: Stroke (risk of stroke), multiple sclerosis
  • Headache at the temples or pain with chewing: Giant cell arteritis (an inflammatory condition that affects the large and medium arteries in the body)
  • Inability to close one eye: Bell's palsy (paralysis of a facial nerve, resulting in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side)
  • Sudden eyelid drop: Possible brain aneurysm
  • Yellow eyes: Liver disease, gallstones or pancreatic cancer

Any of the following eye-related symptoms should always be treated as an emergency:

  • Pupils that are suddenly of unequal size
  • Rapid vision changes such as blurred vision, swarms of floaters or flashing lights
  • Severe pain within the eyeball that is not due to trauma
  • Sudden drooping of one or both eyelids

Keep in mind that even if you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you may not have the associated illness. Still, you should see a doctor and get yourself checked out.

So pay attention if you encounter any of these eye-related symptoms, and heed Dr. Pelson's advice: "A routine eye exam can detect simple blurred vision or find a wide range of systemic disease entities that may go otherwise undetected until it's too late."

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

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