My eyes hurt.
September 20, 2009 9:24 PM   Subscribe

My eyes have ached for the past week. What's going on?

FIRST OF ALL: Unless the general consensus is that I am going to either die or go blind, I will not be going to a doctor until November 1st. I just got married, and due to some shuffling around of insurances, I will not have any coverage until then.

With that out of the way, here's what's going on. I have always been quite nearsighted, and I wear glasses for driving, TV watching, video game playing, or any activity where I need to see further than 5 or 6 feet. My vision up close is fine. Nothing has changed with regards to my vision.

I work in an office environment, with shifts that vary between 8 and 12 hours. I spend most of that time looking at computer screens, though not all of it, because I do fulfillment and inventory work in our warehouse during my downtime. All of my past jobs have been computer jobs, and I've spent lots of time playing on computers and video games as a kid, and never experienced any type of eye strain.

So, last week on the end of my 1st 12 hour shift (I have 2 8 hours and then 2 12 hours), I noticed my eyes really aching, especially if I looked at anything close-ish (within 5 feet or so). The pain was still there, but very dulled, if I looked far away. When I went to sleep that day, it took me hours to drift off, because the pain in my eyes was so bad. It felt as if they were constantly focusing and refocusing. It was distracting and extremely painful.

When I woke up that night, the pain was the same, or maybe even worse. Looking at anything within 5 feet of my face was almost excruciating. However, my drive to work that night was very relaxing for my eyes, and they felt somewhat better after getting to work. I researched eyestrain and read about an exercise where you focus on something near, far, near, far, near, far, then slowly blink a few times. It seemed to relieve the pain quite a lot, though not totally. Maybe down to 20% what it originally was.

Since then, the pain has been intermittent. It has not gotten back up to the terrible flare it was originally. At most, it has been about half as bad, and sometimes it's no problem at all. It doesn't seem to matter if I'm in a bright room or dark room, whether I'm looking at a screen or something else. The pain is still at its worst if I look at something within 5 feet or so, but it can be somewhat mitigated (though not totally) if I wear my glasses at all times, rather than just for distance viewing.

Apart from my eyes aching, my face is very sore because I seem to be constantly squinting. When I notice myself squinting, and relax my face, the eye pain comes back worse. This does not change whether my glasses are on or off, or if I'm looking near or far. Also, the pain is equal in both of my eyes, and, again, there have been no changes whatsoever in my vision.

WHEW. I think I've covered all my bases here, but if there's any other relevant information I should add, please let me know. What do you guys think? If it's just eyestrain, is there anything I can do to permanently relieve it? If it might be something more serious, is there anything I can at least do to lessen the pain until November?

Thanks so much for any help you can provide.
posted by srrh to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
This could be something as simple as eye strain due to a change in your vision - you may just need new glasses.

I recently had pain and blurred vision on one eye and it freaked my shit out. A visit to the eye hospital to see an opthomologist because my primary care doc was concerned but clueless resulted in interesting but non-terrifying things, the most likely of which was that this was a symptom of my chronic sinusitis. (They can tell all kinds of neat stuff looking in there - the smartest question I was ever asked was "Do you have diabetes?" by an eye doctor peering at my eyes.)

So look: it could be a really horrible brain tumor, or it could be something really simple like a need to update your glasses and/or contacts or a need to join me in the line of Sudafed junkies. Either way, if you're in an insurance gap, get to an opthomologist or at the very least an optometrist at an independent store and not, like, LensCrafters or whatever to be assessed. Spend the money there as your first port of call, and do it soon - there's no need to panic but better not to wait.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 PM on September 20, 2009

My eyes get really tired and painful when I don't lubricate them properly and they get dry. Liquid tears from the drugstore are a big help for me.

What I really came into this thread to do, though, is tell you to check whether your eyes are dilating properly. If you dilate them (check under the lights in the bathroom mirror; turn them off and let the room get dark, and then turn them on and watch your pupils grow and shrink in the changing light) and they aren't dilating evenly, ie the black part of your eye isn't round in the semi-dark bathroom, you may have a serious problem called an iritis, in which you basically have muscle cramps in your eye. If your eye is dragging as it dilates and dilating unevenly, go to the ophthalmologist FIRST THING Monday morning, because this is a serious problem and you could go blind by leaving it untreated. And the longer you delay, the worse the treatment will be.

Your symptoms don't exactly match my own experiences with my initial iritis, but they're close enough that it's something you should check. My fingers are crossed for you that it's just needing new glasses or general strain.
posted by immlass at 10:17 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you need new glasses to me, with perhaps a side order of seasonal allergies (they are horrendous in the Northeastern US and Canadian Maritimes this year--I don't know where you are, though).

If you can't get new glasses until November, I would encourage you to lay off the video games and watching movies on the computer and save your eyes for work. :( I know that's a bummer.

If the insurance you're waiting for doesn't have coverage for eye care, hie thee to an optometrist pronto. If the problem isn't just that you need new glasses, he or she will let you know that and you can then decide what you're going to do with that information.

Weirdly, you can become aware of needing new glasses just as suddenly as you describe here. It's like fine fine fine fine fine OH MY GOD MY EYES I CAN'T SEE ANYTHING OW OW OW.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:18 PM on September 20, 2009

Hm. I think you're outside the scope of MeFi ophthalmology, OP, sadly. As DarlingBri says, I'd suggest you run this past your friendly independent optometrist who can negotiate a sliding scale (or look the other way and extend you a military discount based on your husband's apparent service, judging by your profile photo)-- they'll be able to tell you if you need an actual ophthalmologist to help you out.

Your profile suggests you're too young to be experiencing age-related vision changes ("needing bifocals"). You might be developing astigmatism, you might just need your glasses scrip changed, you might have glaucoma (although I think that's an outside shot; most people don't develop acute closed-angle glaucoma in both eyes simultaneously). You don't describe any changes in your vision-- flashes, floaters, odd new colored spots, blurriness-- so it doesn't sound like a retinal or vitreous humor issue. It's both eyes, so it's not a corneal issue from foreign bodies or ulceration. You could have inflammation in the internal stuctures of the eye, although that usually comes with light sensitivity (but not always).

I'd also check your blood pressure at the drugstore and see if that's going OK, and make sure your sinuses are OK.

In short, you don't quite fit any of the things I'm familiar with from firsthand experience, and I think that probably warrants a quick look by a pro. I am not your optometrist, but I think he or she would like to see you before November, honestly, and check on your scrip and do tests for glaucoma, astigmatism, and possibly dry eye.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:22 PM on September 20, 2009

And yeah, that inflammation thing? About the internal structures of the eye? That's what immlass is talking about. That's actually pretty darn serious and requires specialized treatment. BTDT as well.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 10:23 PM on September 20, 2009

I had this happen recently- I was freaked out and worried that something was wrong with me. I went to the eye doctor, found out my prescription had changed slightly, and all was well once I got my new contacts. HOWEVER, my pain was never quite as bad as what you're describing. My pain was more of an annoyingly constant presence than anything. You should try to get checked out as soon as possible- I did, because I didn't want to be screwing around with my eyes.
posted by MadamM at 10:29 PM on September 20, 2009

Look, go to your doctor or your optometrist. I had the same thing, thought, oh crap, need new glasses, it got worse, doc said, dry eye, take these eyedrops, it got worse again, turns out it was uveitis which can be caused by all sorts of things, infections, bacterial or virus or woo-hoo, parasitical, or my personal favourites, lung cancer or syphilllis.

You need someone to look at your eyes properly. If you let something serious go, it might cause permanent damage.
posted by b33j at 11:46 PM on September 20, 2009

OK, you've all convinced me! I've got an appointment for tomorrow at 9:45a. Will let everyone know what the outcome is!
posted by srrh at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2009

The doctor did a full examination and a few different tests on my eyes, and found them to be in perfect health. There has also been no change in my vision and no need for a new glasses prescription.

He told me that my eye pain was most likely caused due to a migraine. I have never had a migraine before and I am not at all familiar with the symptoms, but I've never heard of one lasting 10 days. He said that it is rare, but it can happen, and to give it another week. He said that if the pain hasn't dissipated by next Tuesday, to have a full workup done by my regular physician to see if it's a systemic problem. He said that whatever it is, it is definitely not related to any diseases or injuries of the eye.

So, a mixed bag. I wish I had gotten a straight answer, but at least I know I'm not going blind.

Plus, getting those dilation drops in my eyes gives me an excuse to wear sunglasses indoors for a while.
posted by srrh at 9:58 AM on September 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

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