During my professional day, I wish patients were better educated and informed in the warning signs and habits that can potentially endanger their vision and their lives.
In twenty-seven years in practice, I’ve come across situations where, if the patient acted promptly and appropriately, they could have avoided intense pain or loss of vision or even saved their lives.
So, I’m going to discuss three scenarios that can potentially put your eyes and overall health in danger—and in some cases indicate a medical emergency—and how to act appropriately and quickly if this happens to you.
1 | Avoid Sleeping with Your Contact Lenses
Sleeping with your contact lenses is a bad idea. Yet, it is a widespread occurrence. Since people lead busy lives and are tired at the end of the day, it’s easy to just fall asleep without taking their contact lenses out.
For experienced wearers, it takes literally less than a minute to take contact lenses out and place them in a case with a multipurpose solution.
It is true that there are special contact lenses that are specifically designed to be worn while sleeping. But even these contact lenses are not 100% safe against complications that might lead to vision loss.
Sleeping in Contacts Can Cause Ulcers
What most people don’t realize is that sleeping with contact lenses is like taking a plastic bag and putting it over your head, and trying to breathe. The eye needs oxygen to survive. The corneal surface (front part of the eye) gets irritated from the contact lens, which leads to infection and can potentially develop into an ulcer.
Ulcers are extremely damaging to your eye and can cause severe pain, light sensitivity, and permanent loss of vision.
Ulcers are very difficult to treat. It is literally a hole in your eye, and your eye care professional is fighting tooth and nail to save your vision. Even in the best-case scenario, there will be a permanent scar in your cornea that may or may not interfere with your vision for the rest of your life.
So, if you slept with your contact lenses and then experience pain, light sensitivity, discharge, foreign body sensation, or blurry vision, do not hesitate to see your eye care professional immediately.
2 | Do Not Ignore Flashes and Floaters
Most people see “floaters” in their field of vision every once in a while. Floaters are often age-related, and you accumulate them as time goes by. Along with floaters, “flashes” of light can occur commonly when straining your eyes.
However, if they occur suddenly and these are “new” flashes and floaters that you’ve never experienced before, the worst-case scenario is that you have a tear or detachment in the retina (back of your eye).
Tears and detachments in the retina represent a true eye emergency. To save your vision, a retinal specialist has to do surgery to reattach or seal the tear or detachment.
I have seen patients that had a detachment or tear for weeks and didn’t come in to get it checked because they felt no pain, just saw the flashes and floaters and didn’t think there was something wrong. This can lead to permanent damage and loss of vision.
If you experience these symptoms, the lack of pain can be misleading, but there is a potentially dangerous threat to your vision that needs to be addressed immediately.
Eye care office staff are usually trained to look out for these symptoms and get you in right away to ensure you don’t have a hole, tear, or detachment in the retina.
3 | If You Have Sudden Loss Of Vision, It Is An Emergency
If you experience a sudden and total vision loss, make no mistake, it’s an emergency. Do not be misled into thinking that it’s not an emergency because you feel no pain.
The worst-case scenario is that an artery or vein in the back of your eye (retina) has been blocked by a blood clot so that the tissues of your eye are not receiving a blood supply.
In other words, you could potentially be at risk for a stroke or heart attack (other common conditions resulting from blood clots), and minutes count. Do not hesitate to go to the emergency room so they can evaluate what’s happening to you and, if it’s a stroke or heart attack, take the necessary steps to save your life.
I’ve seen patients coming into my office because they suddenly lost vision. I dilate their eyes and take their blood pressure only to find out that they are going through a stroke or heart attack and have to call the EMTs to get them to the ER.
I know this is not a pleasant topic to talk about. But by writing this article, my hope is that someone reads this and learns enough to identify a potential problem and take the appropriate steps to save their own vision and life and save someone else’s.