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Blurry Vision

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Written by
Carina Ryder, MS, BSN.
Certified Nurse Midwife, Takoma Park Gynecology
Last updated June 9, 2022

Blurry vision quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your blurry vision.

Understand your blurry vision symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.

9 most common causes

Blurry vision quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your blurry vision.

Take blurry vision quiz

Blurry vision symptoms

Love at first sight. This may be an abstract concept to some, and it is probably harder to believe in if you experience any trouble with your eyes, such as blurry vision.

As the eyes are among the most complex organs in our bodies, it's only fair to theorize they may be in control of one of the most complex of our emotions. However, if you happen to be experiencing blurry vision, what else in your life may not be clear? Let's go over symptoms of this condition as well as any associated issues.

Common accompanying symptoms of blurry vision

You may experience blurry vision in combination with:

Causes of blurry vision

Most cases of blurry vision are caused by disorders of refraction (how the eye focuses light), and these can be treated by getting a good eye exam and making sure your glasses and contact lenses are of the appropriate prescription for you.

Myopia causes

Myopia, or nearsightedness, results in blurred distance vision. Causes of myopia include:

  • Genetics
  • Lots of reading
  • Some medications
  • Diabetes
  • Trauma
  • Cataracts
  • Infection/inflammation

Hyperopia causes

Hyperopia, or farsightedness, results in blurred near vision. Causes of hyperopia include:

  • Trauma
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Some medications
  • Macular degeneration

Scheduling eye exams

Most of the time being far or near sighted isn't due to a particular cause, it just needs to be diagnosed and corrected. It is important to have regular eye exams starting at school age for kids (age 5 or 6) and then every few years as you get older. If you wear glasses or contacts, you need exams every year to make sure your prescription is right and your corrective lenses are working appropriately.

Astigmatism

There is another type of refractive error that leads to issues at any distance called astigmatism. Astigmatism is usually genetic, but might also be caused by an eye injury or eye surgery.

Presbyopia

With aging, the lens of your eye loses accommodating power (this is termed presbyopia). Presbyopia is not considered to be a refraction error, though it causes symptoms similar to those of farsightedness — the ability to focus on near objects is lost.

Onset of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes was formerly known as juvenile diabetes, and is the version of the disease found in children and young adults. Only about 5% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

With any type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to break down and digest sugar. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune condition that attacks the cells of the pancreas and may be genetic.

Most susceptible are children under age 14.

Symptoms include increased hunger and thirst; unintended weight loss; irritability; and fatigue.

If not treated, diabetes leads to severe and sometimes life-threatening health problems. It is very important to seek treatment if any type of diabetes is suspected.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and blood tests.

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed with insulin injections and careful attention to diet and exercise. Regular monitoring, both by a medical provider and by the patient, is an important part of controlling this condition.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, shortness of breath, vomiting, general abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss

Urgency: In-person visit

Onset of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes was formerly known as juvenile diabetes, and is the version of the disease found in children and young adults. Only about 5% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

With any type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to break down and digest sugar. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune condition that attacks the cells of the pancreas and may be genetic.

Most susceptible are children under age 14.

Symptoms include increased hunger and thirst; unintended weight loss; irritability; and fatigue.

If not treated, diabetes leads to severe and sometimes life-threatening health problems. It is very important to seek treatment if any type of diabetes is suspected.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and blood tests.

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed with insulin injections and careful attention to diet and exercise. Regular monitoring, both by a medical provider and by the patient, is an important part of controlling this condition.

Blurry vision quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your blurry vision.

Take blurry vision quiz

Recurrent migraine

Recurrent migraines are repeated bouts of intense headaches. The signature symptom is throbbing pain. They can sometimes be accompanied by nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and light, smell, or sound sensitivity. The cause is considered unknown. Some can feel a migraine attack coming on when exposed to certain foods or smells, while others have no warning at all.

If your migraines are unusually severe or do not respond to your normal treatment, you should consider visiting a healthcare provider to discuss your symptoms. Your provider can evaluate migraine with a review of your symptoms. Imaging and other tests may be performed to rule out other conditions. Migraines can be managed with increased rest, medication, massages, and proper hydration.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: headache, history of headaches, fatigue, nausea, mild headache

Symptoms that always occur with recurrent migraine: headache, history of headaches

Symptoms that never occur with recurrent migraine: fever, headache resulting from a head injury

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Post-concussion syndrome

Concussion symptoms tend to last for a few days to weeks. Sometimes, symptoms are long term, lingering for several months or even years. This is known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). Some of the most common PCS symptoms include headaches and confusion. Memory problems and difficulty concentrating may also occur.

You should consider visiting a medical professional in the next two weeks to discuss your symptoms. A doctor can evaluate PCS with a review of your symptoms and an MRI. Once diagnosed, treatment depends on your specific symptoms but often focuses on letting the brain rest and recuperate. You may be asked to temporarily stop sports and exercise until you are cleared to return.

Onset of type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes was formerly known as juvenile diabetes, and is the version of the disease found in children and young adults. Only about 5% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

With any type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to break down and digest sugar. Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune condition that attacks the cells of the pancreas and may be genetic.

Most susceptible are children under age 14.

Symptoms include increased hunger and thirst; unintended weight loss; irritability; and fatigue.

If not treated, diabetes leads to severe and sometimes life-threatening health problems. It is very important to seek treatment if any type of diabetes is suspected.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and blood tests.

Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed with insulin injections and careful attention to diet and exercise. Regular monitoring, both by a medical provider and by the patient, is an important part of controlling this condition.

Hypertensive crisis

Hypertensive crisis, also called malignant hypertension, means there has been a sudden increase in blood pressure to dangerously high levels. Any reading higher than 180/120 is enough to cause serious health problems.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be due to stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, sleep apnea, or use of illegal drugs. Untreated hypertension can lead to a hypertensive crisis.

Symptoms of dangerously high blood pressure can include chest pain, severe headache, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, and blacking out.

Blood pressure at these high readings, with these symptoms, can damage blood vessels and cause a stroke. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and blood pressure measurement.

Treatment involves oral medication to reduce the blood pressure. Hospitalization is usually not required unless the medication is not effective, in which case intravenous medicine will be used.

The best prevention involves proper use of blood pressure medication along with lifestyle changes to reduce stress and improve physical fitness.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is damage to your retina. It's one of many possible complications of diabetes and is the most common reason working-age people in the United States go blind.

Your retina is the inner lining at the back of the eye. It captures light and signals to your brain that you’re seeing something.

The retina is filled with small blood vessels. High blood sugar levels from diabetes can make these blood vessels bleed and leak fluid. This damages the retina, and can cause you to lose your vision.

If you have diabetes, see an eye doctor regularly and try to keep blood sugar levels under control to prevent diabetic retinopathy.

Concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) needing imaging

A concussion is also known as traumatic brain injury or TBI.

Concussion is the result of being struck in the head. In some cases, especially with infants, being violently shaken so that the head whips back and forth can also cause a concussion.

Most susceptible are those playing contact sports. However, concussion is often the result of an automobile accident or simple fall and can happen to anyone.

Symptoms include headache; loss of balance and coordination; difficulty with memory and concentration; and sometimes, but not always, loss of consciousness.

If symptoms do not clear within a few hours, or seem to get worse, take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination. A mild concussion does not show up on imaging because there is no bleeding or swelling in the brain. Mild concussion is entirely a disruption in brain function, with nothing to see on an image.

A concussion does not usually need treatment, but head injuries can result in more serious complications, like bleeding in the brain, you should be seen for an evaluation today, just to be sure. The health care provider will determine if imaging of your head, like a CT scan, is necessary. If your symptoms change or worsen, go to the ER immediately.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light, frequent mood swings

Symptoms that always occur with concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) needing imaging: head or face injury

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Cataract

In older adults and sometimes in people who aren't all that old, blurry vision is due to cataracts or clouding of the lens of the eye. This can be due to damage from the sun and radiation, as well as genetic causes. This is a key reason to keep up with routine eye exams, especially after the age of 65, as this can be readily treated with surgery.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease of the macula, which is the part of the eye responsible for seeing objects clearly. It is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.

You should visit your primary care physician within a few weeks to discuss your symptoms. The diagnosis will be made via eyesight tests.

Acute close-angle glaucoma

Acute closed-angle glaucoma is also called angle-closure glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma. "Acute" means it begins suddenly and without warning.

"Glaucoma" means the fluid pressure inside one or both eyes is too high. "Closed-angle" means that the iris – the circular band of color in the eye – does not dilate open properly and blocks the natural drainage mechanism within the eye. The fluid builds up and causes the pressure to increase.

The exact cause of any glaucoma is not known. It may be an inherited trait.

Acute closed-angle glaucoma can be triggered by an extreme dilation of the eyes, as when walking from bright light into total darkness.

Symptoms include sudden eye pain, headache, nausea, blurred vision, and seeing a rainbow-like aura around lights. This is a medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and thorough eye examination.

Treatment involves surgery to correct the dilation and drainage mechanisms of the eyes, as well as prescription eyedrops and oral medications.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: headache, nausea or vomiting, vision changes, being severely ill, eye pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Blurry vision quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your blurry vision.

Take blurry vision quiz

Other causes of blurry vision

Other causes of blurry vision may include:

  • Brain tumors
  • Myasthenia gravis: This is usually associated with double vision
  • Incorrect eyeglass/contact lens prescription
  • Cranial nerve disease or damage

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Blurry vision treatments and relief

When blurry vision is an emergency

Seek immediate medical care if you have blurry vision and:

Blurry vision is most often treated with prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or corrective surgery (lasik). Having sharp vision both near and far is crucial to everyday functioning, and failing to treat refractive errors can result in vision loss. Like other senses, vision contributes to our interpretation of our environment. Vision allows us to enjoy the world's beauty, which may, indeed, be in the "eye of the beholder."

FAQs about blurry vision

Can high blood sugar cause blurred vision?

Yes, over time high blood sugar can alter the amount of water retained by the lens of your eye changing its shape and blurring your vision. Depending on how long the process has occurred, changes to the lens can be permanent. High blood sugar can also cause blurry vision, and is caused by diabetes, which can cause damage to the small blood vessels of the retina damaging your vision. Less commonly, an acute diabetic attack with extremely high sugars can cause neurologic changes including blurred vision.

Will allergies cause blurry vision?

Generally no, but if allergies cause you to have increased formation of tears or heavily irritated eyes then yes, those symptoms can lead to blurry vision. Vision changes should be taken seriously and prolonged blurry vision should elicit medical evaluation.

Can diabetes lead to blurred vision?

Yes. It can lead to blurred vision through two mechanisms. Non-permanent damage can occur when the high blood sugar in the blood causes more fluid to flow into the lens of the main. More permanent damage to the small vessels of the eye can cause irreversible changes in vision. The threat of irreversible vision damage

Why do I have blurry vision when I'm tired?

You may have eye strain from reading or staring at a backlit screen. Blurry vision may come from the muscles of the eye tiring out and becoming unable to focus. You may need glasses or contact lenses, or you may need to close your eyes for a period of time to rest. It is recommended that if your work involves screen time that lasts for at least 10 minutes every hour, take some time to focus on something farther away wherever you're working to give your eyes some rest.

Can blurry vision be caused by a lack of sleep?

Generally no, but lack of sleep and eye fatigue are commonly associated and eye fatigue can cause blurry vision, especially in those without an adequate prescription for their eyes. As the body becomes sleepier, it becomes more difficult to focus the lens of the eye and the result is blurry vision or vision that takes a longer time to focus.

Questions your doctor may ask about blurry vision

  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Does light bother your eyes more than usual?
  • What is your body mass?
  • Do you currently smoke?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Blurry vision statistics

People who have experienced blurry vision have also experienced:

  • 9% Headache
  • 5% Dizziness
  • 5% Nausea

People who have experienced blurry vision were most often matched with:

  • 33% Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • 33% Cataract
  • 33% Recurrent Migraine

People who have experienced blurry vision had symptoms persist for:

  • 38% Less than a day
  • 27% Over a month
  • 19% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

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Dr. Peter Steinberg is a board-certified urologist and the director of endourology and kidney stone management at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is also an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. He received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Middlebury College (1999) and graduated from University of Pennsylvania Medical School (2003). He completed a urology residency a...
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References

  1. Facts About Myopia. National Eye Institute. Updated October 2017. NEI Link.
  2. Facts About Hyperopia. National Eye Institute. Updated July 2016. NEI Link.
  3. Astigmatism. American Optometric Association. AOA Link.
  4. Fernandez J, Rodriguez-Vallejo M, Pinero DP, et al. From Presbyopia to Cataracts: A Critical Review on Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome. Journal of Ophthalmology. 2018;2018:4318405. NCBI Link.
  5. Watch Out for Diabetic Retinopathy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated November 5, 2018. CDC Link.