My eyes! My eyes!
March 13, 2006 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My eyesight has always been great, and in general I see just fine. As a general rule, the world is not blurry and when I look at something, whether it be 1 foot or 20 (or 100) feet away, I see what I expect to see. I've never worn glasses.

But lately, I've encountered three annoying types of...issues.

1. Night driving drives me batty. It's not that I can't see, which I can, but light glare really bugs my eyes and if I drive in the city for too long, I get a massive headache. Busy and poorly lit highways (which are the norm in Massachusetts) are the most frustrating.

2. If I watch a long movie (say 2 or more hours) in a dark room, once the movie is over (be it TV or theater) and the lights come on, there is a short period when my vision is wrong. Visually everything seems quite dreamlike and focusing on specific things is hard. It's like my perception of perspective gets all screwed up. A few minutes and couple of head shakes makes it go away.

3. And here is what precipitated this question: If try to focus on something tiny that is close to my face it hurts. I noticed this today at work while looking at some bug reports which were printed in very small text (in a meeting - normally I read them on a screen). The text was too small and close together to read in a couple of spots, so I picked up the sheet to better focus on the text which resulted in eyeball pain and nausea.

Point three is the one that causes me the greatest concern. In the last couple of weeks, it's happened enough times that I'm starting to wonder what it is, but if I think back, the problem seems to have started a while ago (months at least), but today it was so bad that I actually had to stop what I was doing for a minute.

Points one and two have never particularly concerned me because I have chronic migraines and generally associate light sensitivity and strange visual behaviour to them.

The only reasonable explanation I can come up with is eye strain.

So my questions are thus:

What do you think it is?

Or, if you think that it's eyestrain, then what can someone who needs to spend an awful lot of time reading either from a screen or paper do to mitigate it?
posted by jaded to Health & Fitness (19 answers total)
I feel like I must be missing something: why not just go to an eye doctor for a check-up? If I were having those problems, especially the third one, I'd presume I needed to get my prescription fine-tuned. Maybe your eyes have changed and you now need glasses for night vision and / or reading.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:08 PM on March 13, 2006

I agree with The corpse in the libarary. Most of your symptoms are very consistent with needing an eyeglass prescription adjustment - or in your case, needing to get a prescription for the first time.
posted by AuntLisa at 2:42 PM on March 13, 2006

Yes. See an optometrist or ophthamologist.

Eyes change over time, and it's likely that you've acquired some presbyopia or hyperopia.

And... I don't mean this to be rude, but what makes you think that you're a good judge of your own vision? Of course you see what you expect to see, you're seeing with the same eyes you always do. I saw what I expected to see when I was 7, but my vision was actually ~20/200. It's entirely possible that you're myopic, hyperopic (hyperoptic?), presbyopic, and/or have an astigmatism and don't recognize it for what it is. This is why God gave us eye doctors with cool machines.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:46 PM on March 13, 2006

going to be redundant and say check with an optometrist. those all sound pretty serious.
posted by cellphone at 3:10 PM on March 13, 2006

Could be age. I had perfect vision until my 40th birthday. Since then I've had trouble focusing on anything close. First I needed glasses to read now it's gotten to be where I need help focusing on anything closer than 10 feet. You could pick up a pair of +1.00 reading glasses at the drug store and see if they help.
posted by Carbolic at 3:13 PM on March 13, 2006

Your eyes do not remain constant over time.

I never wore glasses as a child but slowly developed mild astigmatism when I was about 18; I've had to wear glasses ever since. If I don't, the strain gives me a headache after a few hours of reading.

I don't really know why it waited until I was 18, but whatever. I look way cooler with glasses anyway (once I got used to them.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:20 PM on March 13, 2006

Yeah, point three sounds like classic you-need-glasses. Get your vision checked.
posted by raedyn at 3:21 PM on March 13, 2006

All signs point to an astigmatism. Go see a doctor. Mention the specific symptoms.
posted by davejay at 3:52 PM on March 13, 2006

Our eyes focus by flexing a rubbery lens. But as we grow older, the lens gets more and more stiff, making it harder and harder to flex it. That's why even people who have perfect vision when young eventually need bifocals or trifocals. (Myself, I have reading glasses and driving glasses and both of them have bifocals; all four corrections are tuned for different distances.)

Sorry, but the diagnosis for your condition is "you're getting old". It happens to the best of us.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:01 PM on March 13, 2006

Regarding your statement that you see what you "expect to see." After I finally got glasses, I was amazed at all the things I saw that I didn't ever remember seeing.
posted by MrZero at 4:05 PM on March 13, 2006

Thank you all for your answers. Looks like I'll be finding out if my health plan includes vision (and making an appointment regardless...).
posted by jaded at 4:20 PM on March 13, 2006

You're getting old. The little text close up thing sounds like long-sightedness to me. Do you have to move pages with small text backwards and forwards before you can focus on them? If yes, then it's almost certainly long sightedness.

See an optician. In likelyhood, you'll be prescribed nothing more than reading glasses.
posted by seanyboy at 4:58 PM on March 13, 2006

I wouldn't freak out about the nausea and blurriness when looking at text close up. I get it too, but not as bad as you it seems. It's just being far-sighted and putting strain on your eyes when trying to focus on something that just ain't gonna come into focus.

I've learned to start "tromboning" small text to get it in that sweet spot where it is as close as I can focus, yet not far enough away to be unreadable.

A trick you can use in a pinch is making a small magnifier by curling your index finger so that a small hole is formed by the three segments of your finger. You should curl until just before the hole closes up. Now, under relatively bright light, you can hold your hand about a foot from your eye (just use one eye) and anything held a few inches from the other side will be much clearer and somewhat magnified. Unfortunately you can only read text one letter at a time this way, but it has been helpful in looking at points much smaller than I could ever see without glasses on. Try it!
posted by qwip at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2006

1 & 2 - as people age their night vision and their ability to adjust from bright to dark decreases

3 - it certainly sounds like you're getting far sighted to me

time to see the eye doctor
posted by pyramid termite at 8:33 PM on March 13, 2006

It's a bitch getting old.
posted by caddis at 10:56 PM on March 13, 2006

Just another testimony to the fact that while you see what you expect to see, your expectations may have declined imperceptibly over the years as your eyesight has worsened. I know that when I first got glasses, I swore up and down that I didn't need them... until I put them on and was amazed at how sharp and clear the world was. Same thing happens today when [as occasionally happens] I need a new prescription. I'll have gotten used to my old prescription, and I don't realize that I'm squinting to try to make things out. When I put on the new glasses, suddenly everything actually is clear, and I'll wonder how I didn't realize how bad my vision had gotten.

qwip's tromboning isn't a long-term solution, particularly if the inability to see things in focus is actually hurting you or giving you a headache. See an eye doctor.
posted by ubersturm at 10:58 PM on March 13, 2006

Just to note, I am not recommending that jaded avoid seeing a doctor and instead learn how to cope with tricky strategies. Just saying that the nausea is a typical symptom of becoming far-sighted and when you get your glasses it will go away.

I have reading glasses for just such an issue, but I always forget to bring them with me - hence the tromboning.

Although, the finger trick is quite nifty in a "gee-whiz" sorta way...

Here's a picture of what I mean, in case my description is for crap:

posted by qwip at 2:37 AM on March 14, 2006

My optometrist explained to me that focussing for short distances is accomplished by a sphincter-like muscle that surrounds the lens; but it's not attached directly to the lens - a bunch of radial fibres stretch outward from the lens edge, and all that happens when the muscle contracts is that the tension on these fibres is reduced. The lens thickens to shorten the focus not because it's being squashed, but because it's no longer being pulled flat.

When you reach a Certain Age, the lens gets stiff enough that it just doesn't want to bulge so much any more, and its ability to focus close up gets correspondingly worse. Intelligent design, huh?

I've done regular look-far, look-close, look-far, look-close eye exercises for years, in the belief that focussing ability was probably a use-it-or-lose it thing like so many other bodily functions - but now I'm 43 and they don't seem to have made a lick of difference; my close-range vision is deteriorating pretty much exactly as expected.

I expect I'll crack and get glasses in another couple of years.
posted by flabdablet at 3:28 AM on March 14, 2006

"Old age ain't for sissies."
Bette Davis

Short range, get reading glasses for your desk in case you need to see something, but yeah, probably time for real glasses. The glare does sound a bit like astigmatism, so you should have it looked at.
Another trick is to get more light on it, which causes the eye to stop down, giving you better depth of field, in photographic terms. As you get older, you'll start removing splinters next to the window.
(That said, I've been astigmatic all my life, and I refuse to wear glasses, so I just keep a pair of reading glasses handy and go on. I also keep a pair of 3 diopter reading glasses around in case I have to do something small. Your focal distance is a few inches, but you can see well enough to do micro-surgery if you have to.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:19 AM on March 14, 2006

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