Some patients wonder if they can wait until their next routine eye exam. In reality, there are some instances when appropriate vision care must be initiated promptly in order to prevent severe or permanent vision loss. Both Dr. Chorel and Dr. Doig have experienced patient encounters where they wished the patient had come sooner.
In such instances, patients will often report that they "thought it would go away on its own".
So what constitutes a true eye emergency? Unfortunately, we can’t answer this question concisely on a webpage. If you are concerned that you may have a true eye emergency, please call us and book an appointment with one of our doctors. When you call, we will ask specific questions to help decide how urgently the problem should be addressed. Patients with true eye emergencies will be seen by one of our doctors immediately, and appropriate treatment or referral will be initiated right away.
The following are general guidelines and are given to help you decide when you need to see one of our doctors. Patients may have a true eye emergency if their experience includes any of the following:
- A sudden onset of symptoms. The symptoms began over the course of minutes or hours, not days or weeks.
- Symptoms that are alarming or progressive. The symptoms are severe enough to cause you worry when they begin or they are worsening to the point that they cause you to worry.
- Symptoms that last one hour or more. Vision symptoms that will “go away on their own” will typically do so within the first hour. If they do, such symptoms still need to be assessed, even though we may not consider it a true eye emergency.
- Symptoms that occur for less than one hour, but which occur repeatedly throughout the day.
- Pain. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. If you experience any sort of eye pain that will not resolve within a short period, please see us so we can determine the cause.
- Flashes of light. Flashes that resemble sparks, lightning, or fireworks, usually in the side vision. These can occur spontaneously, or after an eye or head injury. These can indicate some sort of internal, physical damage to the retina. Patients who experience flashes of light such as this should be seen immediately for a dilated examination of the retina.
- Floating spots. New floaters, noticed suddenly, especially when they occur along with flashes of light, can indicate damage to the retina. In most instances, floating spots result from natural changes to the gel-like (Vitreous) fluid that fills the largest, posterior chamber of the eye. We cannot confirm this, and we cannot rule out detachment or tearing of the retina unless we see you, dilate your eyes and look.
- Double vision. Patients who experience a sudden onset of double vision should not drive, and they should be seen by one of our doctors promptly.
Although this list of specific symptoms is long, it is possible that you may be concerned about something which is not listed here. If that is the case, it is best to see one of our doctors to assess the problem. Together we can decide how urgent the issue is.
At Doig Optometry, we reserve time each day for urgent appointments. If you are experiencing an eye emergency or if you feel you might be, please call us for an appointment with one of our doctors. We are here to help you with your urgent eye care needs.
Remember as well, that the cost of urgent eye exams is usually paid by Alberta Health Care.