Causes and Treatments of Sudden Blurry Vision

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Suddenly experiencing blurred vision can be a sign of an underlying problem or may just be a temporary reaction. Changes in vision are never normal. How serious they are, however, depends on a variety of factors.

In many cases, it's a temporary reaction, and whatever the problem is quickly resolves on its own. Still, if you find yourself debating about whether it's important enough to consult a doctor right away or to wait, it's best to err on the side of caution.

This is particularly true if changes in vision are sudden, where everything is crisp and easy to see one minute and you find you're having difficulty viewing details the next.

Blurry image of a young man

Jasmin Merdan / Moment / Getty Image

Symptoms

Blurred vision is something that cannot be remedied with glasses or other corrective lenses. It is a symptom where you find you're having trouble seeing things as sharply as you usually can, with items appearing somewhat fuzzy in one or both eyes.

Cloudy Vision

Also, be aware you may be dealing with milky or cloudy vision, which is actually different from blurred. With this, it may appear as if you are peering through a fog. One reason for this can be a cataract, in which the lens of the eye becomes opaque.

Causes

At the heart of blurry vision can be a variety of different conditions. Some of these are relatively minor, while others are actually very serious.

Common Problems That Cause Sudden Blurry Vision

These conditions can produce sudden blurry vision:

  • Bleeding in the eye (hyphema): If you get hit in the eye, blood can collect between the clear surface and the colored part of the eye. If there's an injury to the iris or pupil this can cause blurry vision, as well as light sensitivity and pain.
  • Corneal abrasion: With this kind of scrape on the surface of the cornea, which can be caused by something like a fingernail, vision can become suddenly blurry. The eye can also become red, painful and sensitive to light.
  • Dry eyes: Your tear film helps to keep your eyes moist. If this three-layer coating is disrupted and there aren't enough tears or the quality of these isn't great, the result can be a burning or gritty sensation and blurry vision can occur.
  • Eye strain: This occurs if you've been staring at your computer for too long. With your eye muscles weary, the result may be suddenly blurred distance vision. Other symptoms that may accompany digital eye strain include headache, dry eyes, and even neck and muscle aches.
  • Infection (conjunctivitis): This condition, also known as pink eye with inflamed tissue, can sometimes cause blurry vision. Typically, the eyelids are also swollen, the eye is red with mucus coming out of it, and you may have some sensitivity to light.
  • Macular hole: The macular provides the sharp central vision for seeing details. When there is a break in this tissue, sight can become blurred. The vitreous fluid in the eye can leak through the hole onto the macular layer of the retina causing distorted vision.
  • Optic neuritis: With a condition like multiple sclerosis, the immune system may attack the optic nerve, causing optic neuritis. In addition to blurry vision, sight may become dim, colors appear faded and there may be pain in the back of the eye socket and when you move your eyes.
  • Pregnancy: Hormone fluctuations can cause dry eye-related blurring. Also, preeclampsia, marked by high blood pressure and swelling of the hands and feet, may arise. Up to 50% of people who are pregnant may have blurred vision, flashes of light, blind spots, double vision, and even blindness.
  • Uveitis: Sometimes a condition like lupus can cause blurry vision due to uveitis. With this, the middle layer of the eye becomes inflamed. The eye may also be red, sensitive to light, and tender. You may see specks or strands.

Common vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and even aging-related reading problems linked to presbyopia can cause gradual blurriness. The good news is these can usually be addressed with glasses or contact lenses.

Serious Causes of Sudden Blurry Vision

While there are many reasons for sudden blurriness, keep in mind that some of these require immediate attention and should be taken seriously:

  • Detached retina: When part of the retina gets pulled away from the back wall of the eye, the nerve cells there no longer work right and the result can be suddenly blurry vision. Also look for flashing lights, floaters, a persistent shadow, or sudden loss of your side vision.
  • Macular degeneration: With this condition, the sharp central vision needed to see fine details can become blurred as the macula deteriorates. As this becomes more serious, this can affect reading, driving and even the ability to see people's faces.
  • Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis): This involves inflammation of the blood vessels near the temples. Besides visual issues, fatigue, fever, muscle aches, loss of appetite, jaw pain and scalp tenderness may occur. This can lead to blindness, blood vessel damage, or even a stroke.
  • Stroke: If this occurs, the brain doesn't get enough oxygen and vision, as well as other bodily functions may be impaired. In addition to blurred vision, light sensitivity, seeing double and even sight loss may occur. Immediate treatment is needed.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes: With high blood sugar, water is pulled into the lens, which swells and blurs vision. High sugar levels can weaken blood vessels and damage the retina. Weak blood vessels may possibly bleed, grow new weak blood vessels or even lead to retinal detachment with risk of permanent vision loss.

When to Call a Doctor

If you suspect that you are dealing with an injury, a detached retina or other serious condition, don't hesitate to call a doctor or go to an ER. Keep in mind that blurred vision may indicate a life-threatening stroke, which requires emergency treatment.

Most of the time, blurry vision can be safely handled outside of the ER. A 2017 study shows that approximately 1 in 4 of those who visited the ER for an eye issue had a minor problem such as pink eye, a swollen eyelid, or eyelid bumps.

Treatment for Sudden Blurry Vision

Deciding what to do about blurry vision will vary depending on the cause. In many instances, blurry vision will resolve on its own or with the aid of common antibiotic treatment. In others, however, the underlying condition must be treated.

Surgery

Occasionally, surgery may be required if you're dealing with one of the following conditions:

  • Detached retina
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Injury
  • Macular degeneration
  • Macular hole
  • Stroke
  • Temporal arteritis

A Word From Verywell

Fortunately, in many cases, sudden blurry vision is actually due to something minor. Still, to be sure, this is something that should be discussed with your doctor.

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Article Sources
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