9 Causes of Blurred Vision & When to See a Doctor

It’s estimated that nearly 70% of adults experience some sort of vision problem in their lifetime. Most, however, are easy to treat with the correct diagnosis and/or prescription. Blurred vision, on the other hand, is a little bit more complicated and can be caused by a number of factors, some of which may be serious. Continue on to learn more about the 9 common causes of blurred vision, treatment options, and when it’s time to see a doctor.

1. Your prescription is outdated.

Refractive errors (which include astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness) are the most common causes of fuzzy vision. These occur when the curve of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina. A simple trip to your eye doctor for an exam and an update in your prescription should remedy the issue. LASIK surgery is also another option for some individuals.

2. You have an eye infection.

Though not usually serious, conjunctivitis (or pink eye) is highly contagious. Characterized by red, goopy eyes, it usually goes away on its own in 1-2 weeks. But, if you have severe symptoms your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or antiviral medication. Be sure to wash your hands frequently (where have I heard that lately?). And, change and wash your pillowcases often in hot water to avoid spreading it.

3. You have cataracts.

About 50% of Americans have cataracts by the age of 75. Cataracts occur when the “normally” clear lens of the eye gradually becomes discolored and cloudy. This obstructs the passage of light through the lens. And, while typically occurring in older individuals, cataracts can also be present at birth. Some risk factors can also make you more susceptible to cataracts such as smoking, excessive use of alcohol, sun exposure, diet, illness, and injuries to the eye. Cataracts typically develop slowly and cause no other symptoms. When they start to interfere with proper vision, surgery is typically performed to replace the damaged lens. Cataract surgery is one of the most successful surgeries performed today.

4. You have migraines (ocular migraines).

One of the first symptoms of a migraine headache is vision disturbance. This is caused by spasms of the blood vessels which feed the part of the brain that processes vision. You may see a blind spot in one or both eyes, peripheral vision may be absent, or you may see an “aura”. Blurred vision accompanying a migraine usually lasts no more than a couple of hours. There are lots of options for treating migraine headaches from pharmaceuticals to acupuncture. Talk with your doctor to figure out which treatments are best for you.

5. You’re under stress.

Most people are not aware of how detrimental anxiety and stress can be to their vision health. But, did you know that continuously heightened stress levels can cause permanent vision loss? Stress can cause the pupils to unnecessarily dilate and adrenaline can cause increased pressure to the eyes. Overall, in order to prevent stress-related vision problems, pay attention to the following:

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Take frequent breaks from device screens
  • Consider other stress reducers like meditation and exercise

6. You slept with your contacts in.

Okay, who hasn’t done this at least once or twice and immediately regretted it? Contact lenses create micro-scratches on the surface of the eye every time you blink. These scratches can become infected and cause corneal ulcers. So, always take your contact lenses out at night and properly store and care for them to prevent eye injury.

7. You have glaucoma.

This is a more serious cause of blurred vision but isn’t the most common. Glaucoma comes on as a result of extra pressure in the eye, thus damaging the optic nerve. Typically, glaucoma is age-related, like cataracts, and is often slow to develop. Most patients don’t realize they have it as vision loss happens over decades. Prescription medications, laser treatments, and surgery are options for treatment.

8. You have a detached retina.

Again, more extreme and not to be considered unless you also have additional signs. When the retina detaches from its normal position, you may experience reduced peripheral vision, shadows over your field of vision, flashes of light, and blurred vision. Things such as injury, cataract surgery, diabetes, sickle cell disease, and extreme nearsightedness are possible causes of retinal detachment. A detached retina can be reattached with surgery. However, the longer it goes untreated the greater the risk for vision loss.

9. You are at risk of having a stroke.

While not the main symptom of a stroke, it can be one of many signs. Think of the acronym ‘FAST’: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred speech, and Time to call 911. These are the signs that someone is having a stroke. In addition, some may experience blurry vision as a result of a decrease in blood flow to the brain. This too is a medical emergency, so it is wise to seek immediate care.

When Should You See a Doctor?

These are just some of the common causes of blurred vision, some of which may be serious. But, what’s most important to remember is anytime you experience a change in your vision, check in with your eye doctor. Call and schedule an appointment and see a doctor immediately if:

  • Your vision changes suddenly and doesn’t get better after blinking
  • You have no vision in some areas of the eye
  • You have pain in your eye