What is blurred vision?
When you can’t see things clearly, it’s likely that you’re having blurred vision. Blurred vision, or blurry vision, means that your vision isn’t sharp and crisp. Sometimes squinting will bring things into focus. Typically, blurred vision gets worse over time. Some conditions will cause blurriness to come on suddenly.
Blurred vision is the most common symptom related to sight that people report to their healthcare providers.
How will your healthcare provider find out why your vision is blurry?
To find out why your vision is blurry, a provider will ask you questions, such as:
- Do you have any other illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell anemia or lupus?
- Can you describe what you mean when you say your vision is blurry?
- Do you have any other symptoms? These include things that are vision-related, like eye floaters, or other physical signs and symptoms that may be related to a certain disease or condition.
- Did you have an injury from an event like a fall?
- Are you taking any kinds of medications that can affect vision, like steroids?
Your healthcare provider will do an eye exam and may do a physical exam. They may also suggest additional testing.
What are the most common causes of blurred vision that gets worse over time?
Blurry vision is a common symptom with many potential causes, including very common ones like refractive errors and dry eyes. Here are just some of the possible causes:
Refractive errors that cause blurred vision
A refractive error is a disorder that happens when the eyes can’t focus images correctly. The term includes these conditions: astigmatism, farsightedness and nearsightedness. You can often correct these conditions with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. Refractive errors are the most common cause of blurred vision.
Dry eye syndrome that causes blurred vision
Another common cause of blurred vision is dry eyes. You could have dry eyes if your vision improves when you blink. Dry eye syndrome can cause what seems to be a film. The syndrome may also cause itching, redness and pain. Treatment will include the use of artificial tears.
Age-related macular degeneration that causes blurred vision
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of vision loss in older Americans. The condition affects your central vision so that you can’t see what is directly in front of you. It can affect one or both eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy that causes blurred vision
Diabetic retinopathy can affect anyone who has diabetes. The condition can reduce your vision even to the point of blindness. It weakens the blood vessels in your retina.
Glaucoma that causes blurred vision
With glaucoma, fluid build-up in the eye puts pressure on the optic nerve. The damage to the optic nerve can lead to partial vision loss or blindness.
Cataracts that cause blurred vision
Eyes develop cataracts when the lenses become clouded and opaque (hard to see through). You can develop a cataract on one or both eyes. You can have blurry vision and loss of contrast. You may see halos around lights when it’s dark.
Optic neuritis that causes blurred vision
Optic neuritis refers to inflammation (swelling) and irritation of the optic nerve. It can happen on its own or as a result of another condition, including multiple sclerosis. Optic neuritis is most common in one eye, but can happen in both.
Inherited optic nerve disorders that cause blurred vision
Some genetic disorders cause damage to the optic nerve. This is a less common reason for blurry eyesight than cataracts or refractive errors.
Scars on the cornea that cause blurred vision
A deficiency in vitamin A can cause these scars. This situation happens mostly in less developed regions of the world.
What causes blurred vision to begin suddenly?
While blurred vision often gets worse gradually, there are conditions that may cause blurring to start up suddenly. These types of conditions can be medical emergencies and include:
- Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
- A steep increase in blood pressure.
- Hyphema (bleeding inside the eye).
- Retinal detachment.
- Infections of the eye and its tissues.
- Migraine headache.
- Eye injury.
You should get medical help immediately if your vision gets blurry quickly and/or if you have sudden vision loss.
Care and Treatment
How is blurred vision treated?
Treating blurred vision depends on what’s causing it. Treatments may include:
Eyeglasses and contact lenses to treat blurred vision
These products treat blurriness brought on by refractive errors and other causes, including cataracts.
Medications to treat blurred vision
Your provider may prescribe medications to treat the condition that’s causing your blurry vision. The medications will vary depending on your underlying disease.
In terms of treating blurry vision from presbyopia, the eye condition that makes you hold your book farther and farther away from your eyes, your provider may prescribe eye drops, pilocarpine hydrochloride (VUITY®). This formulation is new and FDA-approved for treating age-related blurry vision.
Surgery to treat blurred vision
Your provider may suggest surgical procedures to improve your eyesight, such as surgery to remove cataracts or LASIK to treat refractive errors.
What can I do at home to treat blurred vision?
If your healthcare provider has evaluated your blurry vision and is treating any underlying disease, you can try the following to help with blurred vision at home:
- Get enough rest.
- Avoid allergens, like smoke and dust.
- Always wear sunglasses outside in the sun.
- Always wear eye protection when working or doing hobbies that may damage your eyes.
- Eat a healthy diet that provides the vitamins and minerals you and your eyes need and enough water or other fluids to keep you hydrated.
- Use eye drops to lubricate your eyes if they’re dry or irritated.
How can blurred vision be prevented?
You probably can’t prevent blurred vision at all times, but you can help yourself by making sure you’re following your provider’s recommendations if you have a condition like diabetes. You can also help yourself by developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious foods and physical activity. Make sure to have regular eye exams.
When to Call the Doctor
When should blurred vision be treated by a healthcare provider?
You should go to an emergency room if you have any sudden onset of blurred vision or loss of vision. This is especially true if you’ve been injured or if you have any other symptoms of stroke, such as difficulty speaking or moving.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can blurred vision cause dizziness and nausea?
Dizziness, nausea and blurred vision sometimes happen at the same time, but one doesn’t actually cause the other.
Why do I get blurred vision when I stand up?
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that affects blood flow. You may feel lightheaded or faint when you stand up after you’re lying down. There are many signs and symptoms associated with POTS. Blurred vision is one of them.
Can dehydration cause blurred vision?
Dehydration can cause dry eye, a condition where your eye lacks the fluids to keep it lubricated. Dry eye may cause blurred vision.
What is the difference between cloudy vision and blurred vision?
Cloudy vision, or hazy vision, also means that you can’t see things clearly. However, it doesn’t happen because things are out of focus. Seeing things like you’re looking through a fog, haze or cloud is similar to blurred vision and may even have some of the same causes.
If your vision is cloudy or hazy, you won’t be able to see any better if you squint.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Blurry vision may happen when your eyes are tired or irritated, or it may be a symptom of a more serious condition. No matter what’s causing it, blurry vision can make work harder and make it difficult to enjoy things like reading, driving or watching television. Make sure you get regular eye exams and report any changes in how well you see, including blurriness. Remember that experiencing sudden blurred vision is an emergency, and you should get medical help right away.
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