A person who experiences eye symptoms should be checked by a doctor. However, some eye diseases cause few or no symptoms in their early stages, so the eyes should be checked regularly (every 1-2 years or more frequently if there is an eye condition). Healthcare professionals that deal with eye disorders include: opticians - they dispense glasses and do not diagnose eye problems and optometrists - they perform eye exams and may diagnose eye problems. Optometrists may prescribe glasses and contact lenses. In some states, they prescribe eye drops to treat diseases. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat diseases that affect the eyes. Ophthalmologists may also provide routine vision care services, such as prescribing glasses and contact lenses.
An individual with eye or vision problems describes the location and duration of the symptoms, and then the doctor examines the eye, the area around it, and possibly other parts of the body, depending on the suspected cause. An eye examination usually includes refraction, a visual field testing, ophthalmoscopy, a slit lamp examination, and tonometry. A doctor may take a sample of eye secretions from the conjunctiva for laboratory analysis to determine which form of infection the individual has and how best to treat it. A doctor will ask about any eye pain or discomfort.
Visual acuity test: Acuity refers to the sharpness of vision or how clearly the individual sees an object. In this test, the eye doctor checks to see how well the individual reads letters from across the room. The eyes are tested one at a time, while the other eye is covered. Using a chart (called a Snellen eye chart) with progressively smaller letters from top to bottom, an eye doctor determines if the individual has 20/20 vision or less acute vision.
Slit-lamp examination: A slit-lamp allows the eye doctor to see the structures at the front of the eye under magnification. The microscope is called a slit lamp because it uses an intense line of light (or a slit) to illuminate the cornea, iris, lens, and the space between the iris and cornea. The slit allows the doctor to view these structures in small sections, which makes it easier to detect any small abnormalities.
Retinal examination: In a retinal examination, an eye doctor puts dilating drops in the eyes to open the pupils wide and provide a bigger window to the back of the eyes. Using a slit lamp or a special device called an ophthalmoscope, the doctor can examine the lens for signs of a cataract, glaucoma, or damage to the retina. Dilating drops usually keep the pupils open for a few hours before their effect gradually wears off. Until then, the individual will probably have difficulty focusing on close objects, while distance vision is generally less affected. With the pupils open this wide, individuals may want sunglasses for their trip home, especially if it is a bright day. Also, it may be safer to let someone else do the driving.
Genetic testing: Genetic testing is available for some genetic eye disorders. For example, genetic testing is available for several genetic mutations associated with retinitis pigmentosa, including: RLBP1, RP1, RHO, RDS, PRPF8, PRPF3, CRB1, ABCA4, and RPE65.
signs and symptoms
Vision problems: Symptoms of vision problems include vision loss, altered eye movements, eye pain, visual field loss, bulging eyes, double vision, and headaches. Eye symptoms may involve changes in vision, changes in the appearance of the eye, or an abnormal sensation in the eye. Eye symptoms typically develop as a result of a problem in the eye but occasionally indicate a problem elsewhere in the body.
Conjunctivitis: The most common signs and symptoms of conjunctivitis include redness in one or both eyes and itchiness in one or both eyes. Other common symptoms include blurred vision and sensitivity to light, a gritty feeling in one or both eyes, a discharge in one or both eyes that forms a crust during the night; and tearing.
Symptoms include light sensitivity, blurring of vision, pain, and redness of the eye. Uveitis may come on suddenly with redness and pain, or it may be slow in onset with little pain or redness, but with gradual blurring of vision.
Xerophthalmia (dry eye): Symptoms of dry eye range form mild irritation and foreign body sensation to severe discomfort with sensitivity to light.
Keratitis: Keratitis usually makes the eyes very painful and watery, bloodshot, and sensitive to light. The condition is often accompanied by blurred or hazy vision. If the herpes simplex virus is the cause, the individual will notice a small white spot on the cornea.
Corneal abrasion: A corneal abrasion should be suspected if the individual has sustained an injury to the eye. Some of the symptoms experienced may include: a sensation of a foreign body in the eye (this feeling sometimes develops a few hours later rather than immediately after the apparent injury); tearing of the eyes; blurred vision or distortion of vision; eye pain when exposed to a bright light; and spasm of the muscles surrounding the eye causing the individual to squint.
Each individual with retinitis pigmentosa may experience symptoms differently, depending upon the severity and progression of the condition. Some individuals with retinitis pigmentosa experience a slow, very progressive loss of vision, while others lose their visual ability much more quickly and severely. Other common symptoms may include: difficulty seeing in poor light (such as at dusk or in a dimly lit area) or in the dark; a diminished visual field, either central vision (a condition called macular dystrophy) or peripheral vision (sometimes referred to as tunnel vision); difficulty reading print (with a loss of central vision); difficulty deciphering detailed images (with a loss of central vision); difficulty with stumbling or tripping over objects not seen; clumsiness (with a loss of peripheral vision); and glare. The symptoms of retinitis pigmentosa may resemble other eye diseases, such as glaucoma.