4 Reasons to Seek Emergency Care for Vision Symptoms

Certain vision symptoms can be quite frightening. Many eye conditions are minor and temporary, but changes in your vision should always be examined by a medical professional. These vision symptoms could signal an eye disease, an eye injury or a condition that may be affecting the entire body. The following four vision symptoms require immediate attention from a doctor.


Sudden and Unexplained Loss of Vision

Male patient undergoing eye exam, extreme close-up
Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

Sudden loss of vision can be very disturbing. Three very serious conditions that may cause acute vision loss include anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (AION), central retinal artery occlusion, and complete retinal detachment.


Pain In or Around Your Eyes

Some people describe eye pain as dull, sharp, gritty, burning, aching, or stabbing. Eye pain is often categorized as either ocular pain (on the surface of the eye) and orbital pain (behind or in the eye). Some causes of ocular pain are corneal abrasions and ulcers, chemical and flash burns, eyelid styesconjunctivitis, and dry eye syndrome. Causes of orbital pain include acute angle-closure glaucoma, uveitis, trauma, tumors, and migraines.


Flashing Light or Floating Objects in Your Vision

Flashes of light (photopsia) or floaters are often signs of a retinal tear or detachment. A retinal detachment is similar to a piece of wallpaper peeling off a wall. If it tears or peels off, the retina may flap or move around in the eye, causing flashes of light or floaters. Floaters may also be a sign of a less serious condition known as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Having a PVD slightly increases the risk for retinal detachment, which is a serious medical emergency.


Painful, Light Sensitive, and Red Eye After Sleeping in Contacts

Waking up with a light-sensitive, painful, red eye after sleeping in contact lenses is often an early sign of a corneal ulcer. It is possible that your eye is only inflamed from having slept in contact lenses. However, if the diagnosis is truly a corneal ulcer, medical therapy should be started immediately to reduce the chances of permanent corneal scarring and reduced vision. Time is of the essence, as an ulcer can become quite severe in only 48 hours. Whether you should be sleeping in your contact lenses is a topic that should be discussed thoroughly with your eye doctor.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Muth CC. Sudden vision loss. JAMA. 2017;318(6):584. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.7950

  2. Fiore DC, Pasternak AV, Radwan RM. Pain in the quiet (not red) eye. Am Fam Physician. 2010;82(1):69-73.

  3. National Eye Institute. Retinal detachment.

  4. American Society of Retina Specialists. Posterior vitreous detachment.

  5. Cope JR, Konne NM, Jacobs DS, et al. Corneal infections associated with sleeping in contact lenses — six cases, United States, 2016–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:877–881. DOI:10.15585/mmwr.mm6732a2.

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.