What Is Blurred Vision?

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In most cases, blurred vision is probably a sign that you need glasses. But if the blurred vision comes on suddenly, it can be a sign of a serious medical emergency. Any vision change is abnormal. But some causes are more serious than others. 

Often blurriness is the result of a temporary reaction, and it usually goes away on its own. If blurred vision is accompanied by other symptoms or isn’t getting any better, see a doctor right away—especially if the changes are sudden. 

Below, we look at the multiple causes of blurred vision and various treatment options.

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Types of Blurred Vision 

There are a few vision problems, known as refractive errors, that can cause blurred vision. These include:

All these vision problems make it difficult to see things clearly. Sometimes, people don’t even know they have an issue with their vision. 

Treatment for common vision refractive errors includes prescription glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery can also correct refractive errors. 

Blurred Vision Symptoms

Symptoms of refractive errors include:

  • Hazy, blurry vision
  • Glare
  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Seeing double
  • Tired eyes
  • Difficult reading (both analog and digital)

Blurred vision resulting from something other than a refractive error can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. 

If you have blurred vision, you’ll usually notice that your vision isn’t as sharp. You may find your sight becomes fuzzy and not as clear. People may think that they have blurred vision, but they really have another vision issue such as:

Diagnosis

Getting regular eye exams is crucial. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can catch vision problems before they worsen. They can also tell you whether your vision issues result from a problem with your eyes or a non-eye-related condition. If your eyes aren't the problem, they will refer you to your family physician or a specialist.

If your blurred vision happens with other bodily symptoms, you should see a doctor right away. The blurriness you’re experiencing may be the result of something serious. 

Causes and Treatment

Some causes of blurred vision are benign, while others require medical intervention. Here are a few potential reasons for blurred vision. 

Eye Strain

Staring at a computer screen all day or scanning documents in low light can tire out your eyes and cause blurred vision. Giving your eyes a rest will return vision to normal. Other symptoms of eye strain include headaches, watery eyes, and facial muscle fatigue.

Pink Eye

Pink eye (conjunctivitis) occurs when the eye becomes irritated, either by an infection or allergy. Symptoms include swelling, redness, and discharge. The discharge can cause blurry vision. Pink eye may not require prescription medication in most cases, but if the cause is found to be a bacterial infection, a doctor can prescribe antibiotic drops.

Uncontrolled Diabetes

Diabetes can cause several problems with the eyes, including glaucoma, cataracts, and macular edema. Vision can also change even if you don’t have a specific diabetes-related eye disease. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blurry vision.

Vision usually returns to normal when blood sugar stabilizes. Still, it’s essential to treat the root cause to prevent further complications.

Blood in the Eye

Hyphema is when blood collects in front of the eye. The pooled blood can obstruct vision and cause blurriness. It’s typically the result of a traumatic injury but can also happen due to blood clotting disorders or cancer.

Other symptoms include light sensitivity and eye pain. Commonly, treatment involves resting and protecting the eye until it’s healed.

Optic Neuritis

When the optic nerve swells or is otherwise damaged, it can cause blurred vision. Symptoms of optic neuritis include dim vision, faded color vision, and pain that is usually felt upon eye movement. In some people, the swelling goes away on its own. Treatment for some cases may involve corticosteroids.

Uveitis

Uveitis happens when the middle layer of the eye becomes irritated. Iritis is also a term sometimes used in conjunction with uveitis and is an inflammation of the iris (the colored part of your eye).

It can cause blurred vision and tissue damage that ultimately leads to loss of sight. Other symptoms include redness of the eye, light sensitivity, and floaters. Medical eye drops can help treat the inflammation.

Detached Retina

A detached retina is serious and requires immediate medical attention. When the retina detaches from the eye, vision becomes blurred. People may experience symptoms before the retina detaches include seeing floaters or flashing lights, peripheral shadows, and other visual obstructions. Treatment for a retinal detachment involves surgery.

Stroke

One of the possible symptoms of a stroke is blurred vision. People may also have trouble focusing. Other stroke symptoms include facial changes, speech problems, leg weakness, balance issues, and dizziness. A stroke requires emergency treatment.

Seek Emergency Care

If you suspect that you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.

Macular Degeneration

People with macular degeneration have blurred vision at the center of their sight, but their peripheral vision remains clear. It’s a common cause of vision loss in older adults. Depending on the type of macular degeneration, there may be treatments available. Some drugs can help slow the progression of the condition.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve. Of the two types of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma can cause acute or immediate blurry vision. It is also known as narrow-angle glaucoma.

An acute attack can trigger sudden, intense pressure build-up, which requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent blindness. Other symptoms of an acute attack include sudden blurriness, nausea, vomiting, severe pain, and headache.

Once glaucoma damage occurs, it can’t be reversed. Control of disease progression involves medical eye drops, laser surgery, or a surgery called a trabeculectomy.

A Word From Verywell 

There are many reasons you may experience blurred vision. Allergies and irritation can cause temporary blurriness. Serious conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration can also cause blurred vision and require prompt medical attention. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t always find out about their vision issues until it’s too late and the damage is permanent. It’s why getting a regular eye exam is so important. In some cases, treatments can slow disease-progression as long as the problem is caught early.

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