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Vision Loss: Causes & Treatments

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Last updated April 23, 2024

Vision loss quiz

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

Sudden blurry vision in one eye can be caused from abnormally high blood pressure, abnormally low blood pressure within the eye, or trauma from an injury. Glaucoma, optic nerve disease, and a stroke can cause sudden vision loss in one eye and should be treated immediately. Read below for more information on causes and treatment options.

9 most common cause(s)

Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis
Diabetic Retinopathy
Illustration of various health care options.
Transient Ischemic Attack
Carotid Artery Dissection
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Illustration of various health care options.
Optic nerve disease
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Retinal detachment
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Giant cell arteriis

Vision loss quiz

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

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Symptoms of loss of vision in one eye

Very often a temporary loss of vision in one or both eyes is not caused by a problem in the eye itself, but by an illness of the heart, circulatory system, or nervous system. Head injuries and some other illnesses can also have a direct effect on the blood supply, nerves, and tissues of the eyes. Temporary blindness in one or both eyes is also called transient loss of vision, eye stroke, or amaurosis fugax.

Common characteristics of vision loss in one eye

If you're experiencing loss of vision in one eye, it's likely to also experience the following:

  • A headache in addition to vision loss: As well as severe weakness on the same side of the body.
  • Sudden and painless loss of vision in one eye: Sometimes upon waking up in the morning
  • Difficulty seeing after a head injury
  • Difficulty adjusting to dim light
  • Trouble focusing
  • Painful sensitivity to light
  • Dry, burning, swollen, or encrusted eyes
  • Change in eye color
  • Blurred vision: Or seeing double images
  • Seeing halos around objects
  • Blank spots in the field of vision

Duration of symptoms

Loss of vision symptoms may:

  • Happen suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Come on gradually but grow increasingly worse
  • Resolve within an hour or less in some cases

Who is most often affected by loss of vision in one eye symptoms

The following individuals are more likely to experience symptoms.

  • Women under 40
  • Anyone with diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Anyone with a family history of migraine headaches
  • Anyone with circulatory problems: Such as hardening of the arteries or inflammation of the blood vessels
  • Men taking Viagra: As well as anyone on high doses of blood pressure medication

Is loss of vision in one eye serious?

The severity of your vision loss is ultimately dependent on the cause.

  • Serious: Any loss of vision, even with few or no other symptoms, should be seen by your medical provider as soon as possible.
  • More serious: Loss of vision in one eye, along with weakness throughout the same side of the body and a severe headache, is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately.

Causes of loss of vision in one eye

Abnormal, very high systemic blood pressure

This can lead to increased pressure within the eye itself and cause interference with proper vision. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, which is the blockage or rupture of an artery within the brain that causes weakness and loss of use in one side of the body, including the eye.

Abnormally low blood pressure within the eye

Low blood pressure within the eye can result in the following phenomenon as well as vision loss.

  • "Eye stroke": An "eye stroke" means there is too little blood flow to the eye tissues. This will eventually result in tissue death and permanent loss of vision. Abnormally low blood pressure may be caused by an anti-hypertensive medication that is too strong and makes blood pressure drop too low especially while sleeping, so that the person wakes up with vision loss in one eye. Viagra may also be a risk for this as it can lower blood pressure.
  • Blood vessel spasm: A blood vessel spasm cuts off most of the blood supply to the eye and makes the pressure within the eye drop. This causes brief attacks of blurring and dimming of the field of vision, sometimes with blank spots in it. This usually lasts less than an hour and then the vision returns to normal. It may strike every few months and usually affects the same eye every time.


Injury to the eye can result in vision loss.

  • Direct trauma to the eye itself: This will result in vision loss. Vision loss will also result from trauma to the surrounding bony structures and tissues, with resulting damage and destruction that interferes with vision. A foreign body may or may not be involved.
  • Head trauma: Vision loss can happen after any head trauma, due to damage to the nerves running from the brain to the eyes. This can happen with a closed head injury or after a traumatic brain injury.


Diseases of the eyes can result in vision loss, such as the following.

  • Cataracts: These are related to aging and may affect one eye more than the other.
  • Migraine headaches: These may cause disruption of vision in one or both eyes during the "aura" which precedes the actual headache. About 25 to 30 percent of people with migraines experience this symptom.
  • Neurologic disease: This may disrupt the pathway between the brain and the eye and cause temporary blindness in one or both eyes.
  • Autoimmune diseases: These cause the body to attack its own tissues, creating widespread inflammation and other disruptions in normal function.
  • Irregular heartbeat and other heart abnormalities: These will interfere with normal circulation and blood flow.
  • A brain tumor: This can cause pressure and disruption on the nerves and pathways.

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

Wegener's granulomatosis

Wegener's granulomatosis, more recently re-named granulomatosis with polyangiitis, is a disorder in which a dysregulated immune system causes widespread inflammation of small blood vessels throughout the body. This results in slower or impaired blood flow to your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidneys.

Symptoms can be widespread and affect various parts of the body such as the eyes and ears or respiratory system, yet usually begin more generally with fever, fatigue, a loss of appetite, and weight loss. With treatment, a full recovery is possible; however, this condition can be fatal.

Treatments include immunosuppressive medications in order to control the disease in the short- and long-term.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, loss of appetite, joint pain, shortness of breath, fever

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack)

Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke." Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.

Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, though anyone can experience a TIA.

Symptoms are "transient," meaning they come and go within minutes because the clot dissolves or moves on its own. Stroke symptoms include weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face and/or body; slurred speech; abnormal vision; and sudden, severe headache.

A TIA does not cause permanent damage because it is over quickly. However, the patient must get treatment because a TIA is a warning that a more damaging stroke is likely to occur. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; CT scan or MRI; and electrocardiogram.

Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to prevent further clots. Surgery to clear some of the arteries may also be recommended.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck

Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack): bilateral weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Retinal detachment

The retina is a layer of tissue in the eye. When the retina detaches, its normal position is disrupted causing vision changes.

You should visit the emergency room immediately as this can cause permanent vision loss. If possible, visit an eye hospital's emergency room.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: floating spots in vision, flashing lights in vision

Symptoms that always occur with retinal detachment: floating spots in vision

Symptoms that never occur with retinal detachment: eye pain, eye redness, eye itch, wateriness in both eyes

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Optic nerve disease

This condition, officially known as non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), refers to loss of blood flow to the optic nerve (which is the information cable that connects the eye to the brain). This condition typically causes sudden vision loss in one eye, without any pain.

You should seek immediate medical care at an urgent care clinic or ER. This condition is treated with prescription medication, and it is best to be evaluated by a doctor right away to prevent irreversible damage to the optic nerve.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: loss of vision, blurry vision, eye pain

Symptoms that always occur with optic nerve disease: loss of vision

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

New migraine

A migraine is a one-sided headache that causes intense pain and throbbing due to blood vessels dilating in the brain.

The exact reason for new-onset migraine headache is not known, but a number of causes are being studied:

  • Pregnancy.
  • Soy isoflavone supplements, especially in men.
  • Use and overuse of certain medications.
  • Traumatic head injury.
  • Angioma, which is a cluster of dilated blood vessels in the brain.
  • A complication of surgery for some heart conditions.

Anyone with a sudden severe headache should be seen by a medical provider, so that a more serious cause can be ruled out. A transient ischemic attack, also known as TIA or mini-stroke, can have symptoms similar to a migraine but is far more serious.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and imaging such as a CT scan.

Treatment for migraine varies with the individual. Lifestyle changes may be recommended and there are a number of medications that may be tried.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: new headache, fatigue, nausea, mild headache, headache that worsens when head moves

Symptoms that always occur with new migraine: new headache

Symptoms that never occur with new migraine: fever, diarrhea, productive cough, headache resulting from a head injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis

Granulomatosis with polyangiitis, or shortened GPA, was formerly known as Wegener's granulomatosis. It is caused by inflammation of the blood vessels by the body's immune system. The inflammation can happen anywhere, but often affects the sinuses, lungs, and kidneys.

You should visit your primary care physician soon to provide an early diagnosis. Treatment of inflammatory diseases commonly involve prescription medications such as a steroid to decrease inflammation, and a cell-damaging medicine to kill abnormal cells.

Giant cell arteriis

Giant cell arteritis is a disorder that affects the blood vessels in the head and neck and can cause headaches, vision problems, jaw pain, and arm pain.

Giant cell arteritis is usually evaluated by a primary care doctor who might perform a physical exam and order a blood test to look for inflammation. They might prescribe steroids to help lower the inflammation.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, joint pain, new headache, fever, muscle aches

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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.

Carotid artery dissection

A carotid artery dissection is the tearing of the walls of the carotid arteries, which deliver blood to the brain from the aorta. This is a medical emergency.

Call 911 immediately. Diagnosis is done by CT or MRI, and treatment involves anti-clotting medication for at least 3-6 months. Surgery may be necessary for those who can't get this medication.

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

Loss of vision in one eye treatments and relief

When to see a doctor for vision loss in one eye

If you are experiencing vision loss, even in the absence of other concerning symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can.

When vision loss in one eye is an emergency

Seek immediate loss of vision in one eye treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if you have a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, with or without pain.

How to better prevent vision loss

You should schedule an appointment for:

  • Regular eye examinations: These can detect any vision problems as soon as they arise, so that any needed treatment can begin as soon as possible.
  • Annual physical examinations: These can detect problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or autoimmune diseases so that treatment can begin as soon as possible.
  • Discussion to get help with smoking cessation

Further at-home tips to prevent vision loss

Make improvements in diet, sleep, and exercise in order to improve overall health, normalize blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.

There are several over-the-counter (OTC) options that might help alleviate some associated symptoms:

  • Lubricating Eye Drops: To help with any dryness or discomfort, consider using lubricating eye drops. These can provide relief, especially if your symptoms include dryness or a burning sensation.
  • Anti-glare Glasses: If you're experiencing sensitivity to light, anti-glare glasses may reduce discomfort.

Questions your doctor may ask about loss of vision in one eye

  • Do you have high blood pressure?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Did you faint?

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

FAQs about loss of vision in one eye

Why is my vision blurry in one eye?

Painless blurry vision in one eye can be caused by ischemia or decreased blood flow to structures of the eye. This occurs more frequently in patients with atherosclerotic disease, including coronary artery disease or peripheral vascular disease. Other causes of sudden vision loss include infection, inflammation, vasculitis, and trauma.

Can you lose vision in just one eye?

Yes. This can happen if the blood vessel to one eye becomes temporarily or permanently blocked. This is most commonly caused by an atherosclerotic plaque that dislodged from the carotid artery [5]. It may also be a sign of an impending or ongoing stroke. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience vision loss in one eye or both eyes.

Can high blood pressure cause blurred vision in one eye?

Yes. High blood pressure can damage the retina or the region in the back of the eye, leading to a condition known as hypertensive retinopathy. Patients with this condition may experience decreased vision or headaches. More commonly, patients do not experience any symptoms of hypertension and the condition is found incidentally during routine eye examination.

Does a lack of sleep lead to blurred vision in one eye?

Yes. Staying awake for long periods of time may contribute to eye fatigue and irritation which can manifest as blurred or double vision. Try to get 79 hours of sleep every night to give your eyes enough time to rest.

Can a stroke cause sudden loss of vision in one eye?

Yes. A stroke can cause blurred vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes [6]. When light enters the eye, it is focused onto the back of the eye, from where the images are carried by nerves to the brain where they are processed. A stroke can lead to impaired vision by causing insufficient blood flow to the eye, the optic nerve, or the visual processing centers of the brain. Some patients are able to recover part of their visual function in the weeks following a stroke.

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The stories shared below are not written by Buoy employees. Buoy does not endorse any of the information in these stories. Whenever you have questions or concerns about a medical condition, you should always contact your doctor or a healthcare provider.
Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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  2. Bhargava M, Ikram MK, Wong TY. How does hypertension affect your eyes?. J Hum Hypertens. 2012;26(2):71-83. PubMed Link
  3. Pickering TG. Ambulatory Blood Pressure and Diseases of the Eye: Can Low Nocturnal Blood Pressure Be Harmful? Journal of Clinical Hypertension. Published May 2, 2008. Wiley Online Library Link
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