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Help! It's An (Ocular) Emergency!

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

Picture of a fire alarm, pull in case of fire
Help, it's an emergency!

When a sudden vision issue occurs, it can often be difficult to determine if it's an emergency situation. What constitutes an ocular emergency? And do you have an issue that you think should be seen right away? Here are some of the most common symptoms that you should not hesitate to seek help with - please keep reading for our guide to ocular emergencies!


New flashes and/or floaters

If you are suddenly seeing flashes of light; specks, strands, or “cobwebs” floating around in your vision; this could be a sign of a retinal hole or retinal detachment. More severe symptoms include a portion of your vision that is covered by a dark shadow, bubble, or “curtain”. If you are recently experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be assessed by an eye care professional as soon as possible.

Painful, red eye

A painful, red, or swollen eye is considered an ocular emergency whether it is caused by an infection, a foreign body, or injury. This can be even more concerning in cases where the vision seems to be affected. These cases would be triaged as urgent at our clinic, so don’t hesitate to contact us!

Sudden pupil defect

Normal pupil response is constriction (or shrinking) of the pupils when exposed to light. This response depends on a pathway that starts when light enters your eye and travels through your brain to the visual cortex at the back of your head, and ends when those signals loop back to reach your iris muscles. An abnormality with your pupil reflexes can reflect an issue along any part of that pathway. If you are noticing that one of your pupils is not reacting in a normal manner, and especially if the same eye is suddenly experiencing decreased vision, you should seek assessment by a healthcare professional immediately.

Sudden double vision

If you are seeing double all of a sudden and your symptoms are not improving, this could signal a serious problem. The cause can vary from a viral infection, to a stroke, or even a tumor. Any acute symptoms of double vision should definitely be seen right away!

Recent blur or decreased vision

Any sudden change in visual clarity especially when it’s more noticeable in one eye can be cause for concern. Depending on the reason for the blur, this may be escalated by our doctors for urgent assessment. Many times, blurry vision may be due to a simple change in prescription, and when it comes to your eyes, it's better to be safe than sorry!


Ocular emergencies are not limited to only the above cases. If you're not sure if you have an eye emergency or not, feel free to reach out to our doctors via email, text, or phone for advice!

By Dr. Peter Chan, OD.


Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and answers to your frequently answered questions! In the meantime, if you haven’t had your eyes checked in a while, why not use our handy exam request form and make an appointment with one of our friendly optometrists?

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