Six Common Eye Complaints

The following common eye complaints often happen with age. In most cases, they can be treated easily. Sometimes, they signal a more serious problem.

  1. Presbyopia (prez-bee-OH-pee-uh) is a slow loss of ability to see close objects or small print. It is a normal process that happens as you get older. Signs of presbyopia include holding your reading materials at arm's length or getting headaches or tired eyes when you read or do other close work. Reading glasses can often fix the problem.

  2. Floaters are tiny spots or specks that seem to float across your eyes. You might notice them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters can be normal. But sometimes they are a sign of a more serious eye problem, such as retinal detachment. This often is the case if you see light flashes along with floaters. If you notice a sudden change in the type or number of spots or flashes, see your eye care professional right away.

  3. Tearing (or having too many tears) can come from being sensitive to light, wind, or temperature changes. Tearing also can come from having dry eye. Protecting your eyes (by wearing sunglasses, for example) may solve the problem. Sometimes, tearing may mean a more serious eye problem, such as an infection or a blocked tear duct. Your eye care professional can treat both of these conditions.

  4. Corneal diseases and conditions can cause redness, watery eyes, pain, reduced vision, or a halo effect. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped "window" at the front of the eye. It helps to focus light that goes into the eye. Disease, infection, injury, toxic agents, and other things can harm the cornea. Treatments include changing your eyeglass prescription, using eye drops, or in severe cases, having surgery, including corneal transplantation. Corneal transplantation is a common treatment that works well and is safe.

  5. Eyelid problems can come from different diseases or conditions. Common eyelid complaints include pain, itching, tearing, or being sensitive to light. Eyelid problems often can be treated with medicine or surgery.

  6. Conjunctivitis (also called pink eye) happens when the tissue that lines the eyelids and covers the cornea becomes inflamed. It can cause itching, burning, tearing, or a feeling that something is in your eye. Conjunctivitis can be due to allergies or an infection. Infectious pinkeye can easily spread from one person to another. It is a common eye problem that your eye care professional can treat.

Portions of the above information was provided with the kind permission of the National Institutes of Health (

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Last Editorial Review: 3/5/2003

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