“Do I need glasses?” At some point, most of us ask ourselves this question. When vision loss sets in, it is usually at a gradual pace. Some of us notice it happening, but we put off scheduling a visit to the local eye doctor because it’s inconvenient, or because we don’t want to acknowledge it. For others, signs you need glasses may feel like a sudden revelation. You’re driving home one night only to realize you can’t see the road signs. You find yourself squinting at the computer screen because the text feels blurry. You flip on the lights only to wonder why it takes so long for your eyes to adjust.
Although sudden vision loss is possible, in most cases vision decline doesn’t happen overnight. Yet it can be such a subtle loss that it takes those “Ah ha!” moments that wake you up to the fact your vision isn’t what it used to be. “But I’ve always had 20/20 vision,” you say to yourself. “Why would I need glasses now?” Even those born with 20/20 vision eventually experience a decline in optical prowess as they age. However, not all eye trouble is an immediate need for glasses. Sometimes your eyes just need a break.
The question you need to ask is how do you know the difference between a pair of tired eyes and when it’s time to set an appointment with an ophthalmologist or optometrist? Luckily, there are several common signs that you need glasses, many of which you can recognize by answering a few simple questions.
Am I Struggling to See at Night?
Night Blindness: it’s a troubling vision problem for numerous people. One that disrupts your ability to see in dark or dimly lit settings.
Many people who have night blindness develop it over time. You start to have trouble seeing road signs, animals, and other elements within your surroundings as you drive. Navigating from the bedroom to the bathroom becomes a struggle at night as you bump into walls and furniture.
While night blindness isn’t a complete and utter loss of vision in dimly lit settings, it does refer to difficulty seeing things that you used to, or that are easy to see by individuals with good vision.
Causes of night blindness will vary, but can include:
- Nearsightedness: a decrease in vision that makes it difficult to see things that are far away.
- Cataracts: a clouding of your eye’s lenses that obstructs your vision.
- Retinitis Pigmintosa: the development of dark pigment within your retinas that causes restrictive tunnel vision.
- Vitamin A Deficiency: Although rare, a deficiency in vitamin A can weaken your vision, causing night blindness.
- Usher Syndrome: a condition that is genetic which causes both hearing and vision loss.
Night blindness is one of the signs you need glasses that shouldn’t be ignored. If you’re experiencing this, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to help diagnose the cause.
In some cases, prescription glasses can help improve night blindness by correcting issues with nearsightedness. There are also special lenses that can help you see better at night by utilizing anti-reflective coatings or wavefront diagnostic technology.
Am I Squinting at My Computer?
If you find yourself squinting at the computer screen in an attempt to bring the letters into focus, you may be experiencing signs of vision loss. Our eyes will naturally squint when trying to bring unclear things into focus. It reduces how much light enters your eyes while zeroing in on whatever you are trying to see. However, frequent squinting indicates that your eyes are consistently having trouble focusing. This may be one of two things: eye strain or an underlying vision problem.
Ask yourself, am I:
- Spending a lot of time staring at a computer screen, cell phone or digital device?
- Reading or focusing for extended periods of time?
- Using a screen with poor back-lighting and contrast?
Staring at a screen or text for long periods of time can put a strain on your eyes, so try giving them a break at first. Every 20 minutes, pull your eyes away from the screen and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Don’t forget to blink, either! Long-term squinting can reduce the number of times you blink, which puts your eyes at risk for poor vision. If being mindful of your screen time and giving your eyes a break helps to improve your vision, then you may just need to limit or divide up your screen time when possible.
If it doesn’t help, it’s time for an eye exam.
Is My Vision Blurring?
Sometimes blurry vision is a sign of fatigue, eye strain, or dry eyes. If you have been staring at a book or digital screen for long periods of time, give them a rest! However, if you find that your vision doesn’t improve and that things close up or far away are blurry and out of focus, it’s time for an eye exam.
Consistent blurry vision can be caused by:
Astigmatism is a are fairly common condition and has to do with the curvature of the cornea or lens within your eye.
The only way to pinpoint the cause of your blurry vision is to schedule an exam. Your eye doctor will diagnose the cause based on the results.
Am I Experiencing Eye Strain?
Eye strain is a tricky symptom. As we mentioned previously, it may mean you need glasses or it may indicate your eyes need to rest. However, it’s important to recognize eye strain either way and respond accordingly.
Causes of eye strain include:
- Extensive computer use
- Excessive lighting
- Poor lighting
- Excessive mobile phone use
- Long distance driving
- Underlying vision problems
- Exposure to dry air
Eye strain can impact your usual routine and productivity by inhibiting your ability to focus or causing you to grow tired more quickly. Symptoms of eye strain include aggravation, such as dry eyes, itchy eyes, burning eyes, or watery eyes. It can also cause headaches, soreness in your neck, shoulders, and back, and sensitivity to light.
The best treatment for eye strain that isn’t caused by underlying vision problems is rest, eye drops, limiting your screen time, proper lighting, and ensuring that your indoor space has good air quality.
Do My Eyes Take Longer to Adjust from Dark to Light?
As we age, the muscles that control the way your irises expand or contract can weaken. This can lead to delays in how quickly your eyes adjust to the light. If you find yourself experiencing light sensitivity or trouble transitioning from a dark environment to a light environment or vice versa, it’s recommended that you schedule an eye exam with your ophthalmologist.
Am I Experiencing Headaches More Frequently?
Headaches are a symptom of eye strain. However, because it is such a general symptom, it can often be mistaken for migraines or lumped with other causes. In fact, these headaches are often referred to as “ocular migraines”. Like regular migraines, the pain can be highly disruptive, impeding your ability to perform daily tasks efficiently. But what causes them? It may seem baffling to some that your eyes can lead to pain in your head, neck, shoulders, and back.
The answer lies with nerves. These headaches occur from eye strain when you spend a long period of time struggling to focus. Because your eyes consist of a nerve called the optic nerve, any inflammation from strain can lead to pain that travels from your eyes to your brain. If you find yourself experiencing frequent headaches that don’t subside after taking the appropriate steps to relieve eye strain, you likely need glasses.
Call your eye doctor to schedule a routine eye exam.
Am I Seeing Double?
Double vision is a serious symptom that can indicate an emergency medical issue. Never ignore it! If you are seeing double, immediately set up an appointment with your doctor. There are multiple possible causes for double vision, as your eyes are a fairly complex organ. There are multiple components that help translate what you see into a clear, coherent picture. If just one of them goes awry, it can lead to distorted vision such as seeing double.
A few causes of double vision include:
- Keratoconus: when your cornea develops a cone-shape
- Scars on the cornea
- An autoimmune disease known as Myasthenia Gravis
- A thyroid condition known as Grave’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis, better known as MS
- Guillian-Barre Syndrome
- Brain Tumor
- Brain Trauma
These causes vary in severity but should be addressed with the same immediacy in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Is My Vision Getting Wavy?
What is wavy vision? Imagine looking at a window or painting and having it appear as if it were immersed in water. The image wavers and moves, similar to ripples in a body of water. Lines distort and colors fade, impeding the way you see the world. This is typically a sign of a disease called macular degeneration, or AMD. This occurs when the central part of your retina start to deteriorate, permanently causing vision loss.
While this disease cannot be cured, there are treatment options that may help slow down its progression. These treatments include a cocktail of vitamins and minerals called an AREDS formula. Depending on the patient’s case, surgery may also be an option.
If you are experiencing wavy vision, consult your doctor for examination and diagnosis. He or she will be able to provide you with treatment options based on their findings.
Am I Noticing Halos?
Are you noticing halos around various objects, particularly lights? If you happen to notice bright halos of light around bulbs, car headlights, street lamps, or various other light sources, it is likely a sign of an underlying vision problem. Patients with this problem often say that these halos are more pronounced when they surround objects, or when they are witnessed in a dark setting.
Causes may include:
Keep in mind if you have recently experienced LASIK surgery, then halos may just be one of the side effects of your procedure. If you feel this side effect is lingering or something isn’t right, consult your doctor right away. However, if you haven’t recently experienced a procedure in which halos are a side effect, then it’s time you pick up the phone and schedule an eye exam. Often times, this problem can be remedied with a proper pair of prescription glasses.
Do Not Ignore Signs You Need Glasses
If you are experiencing any of these signs you need glasses, don’t ignore them. While the causes vary from person to person, it is better to be proactive about your health than reactive. The best way to answer the question, “Do I need glasses?” is to seek the professional advice of an ophthalmologist. He or she will likely conduct a full eye exam. These are painless exams that involve a series of tests to determine and rule out a host of common vision problems.
These tests may include looking through a series of lenses and using light to test your vision and responsiveness. However, even if you aren’t experiencing vision problems, it’s good to schedule regular visits to your ophthalmologist, just as you do with your annual checkups. This can help you address any vision impairments, diseases, or issues on the early onset instead of waiting until it has progressed to a level of concern.
The frequency of your visits to an eye doctor depends on your age:
- Adults in their 20’s and 30’s should visit once every 5-10 years
- Adults ages 40-54 should visit once every 4-5 years
- Adults ages 55-64 should visit once every 1-3 years
- Adults ages 65 and above should visit once every year or two
Learn More About Vision Problems and Treatment
“So what are my options?”
Knowledge is one of the best tools for proactive health that you can acquire. If you would like to learn more about vision problems and treatment, including symptoms that are signs you need glasses, take a look at our specialties here at Magruder Eyes Institute.
As a quality ophthalmology practice in the Orlando, Kissimmee, and Wekiva areas of Florida, we have a wide range of expertise in treating today’s most common or concerning vision problems.