12 causes of sudden blurry vision

Persons who experience sudden blurry vision can find it hard to see clearly or perform their normal tasks. Although not all cases are a cause of concern, some that require medical attention.

Keep reading for more detail about what can cause sudden blurry vision, when to seek emergency medical advice, and the appropriate treatment options.

Detached retina

A detached retina is a possible cause of sudden blurry vision.
A detached retina is a possible cause of sudden blurry vision.

A detached retina occurs when the retina at the back of the eye, which is the thin layer, pulls away from the blood vessels which provide essential oxygen and nutrients.

Symptoms can show up quickly, according to the National Eye Institute. Permanent damage and loss of vision may occur without rapid treatment.

Symptoms can include:

  • gray or black specks floating in their vision
  • a shadow on the sides or middle of the person’s vision
  • flashes of light that can occur in one or both eyes

Treatment

Before timely diagnosis, there can be permanent damage to vision.

Treatment may require reattachment of the retina. A health care professional may prescribe freezing medication, laser surgery or surgery.

Concussion

A concussion happens when a person has a head injury.

Symptoms of a concussion may involve, along with visual changes:

  • changes in mood
  • confusion
  • amnesia
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness

Treatment

After a doctor has confirmed the injury is not serious, treatment focuses on symptom reduction.

A person may need around 24–48 hours to rest.

A person can also take analgesics by over-the-counter ( OTC) to help relieve symptoms of headache.

A person should avoid taking medications that can alter a person’s cognitive function and sleep patterns, as these may hide the symptoms of a concussion, according to an article from 2020.

Stroke

Strokes can cause vision to become blurry in one or both eyes.

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • numbness in the face, leg, or arm, typically on one side of the body
  • confusion and difficulty speaking, or understanding
  • difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • difficulty walking, as well as dizziness and lack of coordination
  • sudden and severe headache

If a person thinks someone is having a stroke, they should immediately call the emergency services and follow the protocol set out in the FAST acronym:

  • F for face: Ask the person to smile and note if one side of the face has dropped.
  • A for arms: Ask the person to raise both of their arms and note if one arm drifts downwards.
  • S for speech: Ask a person to repeat a simple phrase. Make a note if they slur their speech.
  • T for time: If any of the above has occurred, call the emergency services immediately.

Treatment

Treatments are more effective within 3 hours of the onset of the first symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) states.

Treatment for a stroke will depend on the type of stroke that affects that part of the brain, and what caused the stroke.

A person can learn more about the treatments for a stroke here.powered by Rubicon Project

Endophthalmitis

Endophthalmitis is a serious infection of the fluid or tissue inside the eye and inflammation.

The symptoms may include, as well as sudden blurry vision:

  • eye pain
  • redness
  • sensitivity to light.

Blindness may occur if a person doesn’t seek care quickly, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Treatment

Treatment can involve injections of antibiotics and/or antifungals. Emergency surgery may be needed.

Hyphema

Blood pools in the eye trigger a hyphema. Hyphema can cause injury, trauma and infections.

Symptoms may include:

  • bleeding in the eye
  • light sensitivity
  • pain
  • blurry vision

Treatment

To treat a hyphema, a person may need to:

  • wear a shield over the eye
  • rest
  • raise the head of the bed to help the eye drain

A person may need also need eye drops.

If the hyphema triggers high pressure in the eye, an ophthalmologist may offer to surgically remove the blood.

Giant cell arteritis (GCA

GCA, or temporal arteritis, is an inflammation of the temple blood vessels.

An individual with GCA can also experience headache, as well as blurred vision.

This affects only adults, usually those over the age of 50, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Treatment

Corticosteroid treatment should start as soon as possible, to help prevent permanent vision damage.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease which can damage the eye, causing blurry vision.

AMD is more common in older people, according to the National Eye Institute, and it can occur in one or both eyes

Treatment

There’s no cure for the early stages of AMD according to the National Eye Institute.

Changes in lifestyle, such as giving up smoking, will help delay the early-stage progression.

If the disease progresses, a doctor may prescribe drug injections into the eye to improve symptoms, or laser therapy to delay loss of vision.

Macular hole

Macular holes are small breaks or tears in the macula, typically affecting adults older than 60 years.

When people with a macular hole look straight ahead, they may notice distortion or blurriness, and straight lines may appear wavy.

Treatment

Over time, such macular holes will repair themselves. Nevertheless, a doctor may prescribe a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy in most cases.

Optic nerve inflammation (optic neuritis)

The optic nerve connects the eye and the brain and transmits visual information to the brain from the retina.

Nerve inflammation may cause blurry or blurry vision.

Symptoms include:

  • pain around the eyes
  • loss of color vision
  • flashing lights

Treatment

Normally, optic neuritis does improve on its own. Nonetheless, if there are serious symptoms a doctor can prescribe steroids to improve recovery.

It may also support maintaining a healthy , balanced diet, staying hydrated and not smoking.

Eye infections

Many eye infections can require immediate medical attention, depending on the symptom severity.

Keratitis

Keratitis is corneal infection, or inflammation.

Symptoms include intraocular tearing, redness , swelling and eye pain.

Treatment may rely on the underlying cause for the inflammation but can include antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungal treatment in the form of eye drops or tablets.

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is a bacterial or viral infection that affects the membrane around the eyeball to the blood vessels. Allergies can lead to conjunctivitis, too.

Symptoms may include blurry vision, eye discharge and pink or red eye skin coloration.

A doctor may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics for a bacterial infection, or may recommend OTC antihistamines for allergy-induced conjunctivitis.

There is no Viral Infection Treatment.

Orbital cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial or fungal infection which can affect the eyelids and the eyeball.

Symptoms may also include eye bumping, eye movement disorder and fever.

Treatment can require antibiotics or an operation to remove fluid from the eye.

Uveitis

Uveitis is uveal inflammation, the middle part of the eye that also includes the iris.

Doctors call iris specific inflammation, iritis.

Uveitis is usually caused by bacterial or fungal infection.

Symptoms may include blurry vision, pain and light sensitivity, which can involve one or both eyes.

Uveitis can be treated with steroids.

Migraine

Sometimes, migraine attacks are preceded by an aura which can cause blurry vision and flashing lights.

Treatment

Treatment can involve prevention and symptom relief during migraine attack.

Typically prevention involves medication and changes in behaviour.

Taking prescribed medications will help relieve symptoms.

Eye strain

Using screens for a long time or focusing on something without a break for an extended period of time can cause strain to the eye.

This could result in sudden blurry vision, itchy eyes or headaches.

Taking daily breaks in order to rest the eyes will help to ease the symptoms.

When to seek help

People with sudden blurry vision and one or more of the following stroke symptoms should call 911 or go to nearest emergency room:

  • numbness or weakness in the face, leg, or arm, on one side of the body
  • confusion and difficulty speaking or understanding others
  • difficulty walking, dizziness, or lack of coordination
  • a severe headache

Loss of vision or blurry vision accompanied by severe eye pain requires immediate treatment.

This will help prevent further eye damage or help identify a serious underlying condition of health that has caused blurry vision.

Summary

Not all causes of blurred sudden vision need immediate medical attention.

Nonetheless, if a person with a sudden blurry vision suspects they may have a stroke, have extreme eye pain, or believe they may have a damaged retina, they should call 911 or go to the closest emergency room there.

People with unexplained, sudden blurred vision should seek help as soon as possible from a health care professional, ophthalmologist or optometrist, even though the episode has passed.

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