Blurred vision: What Is It And 11 Reasons You Might Experience It

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Tired of blurred vision? You’re not alone. In fact, blurred vision is one of the most common eye conditions across the globe. 

But what is it exactly, and what causes it? Let’s break it down. 

What is blurred vision?

Blurred vision is when your vision lacks sharpness, is distorted, and can’t see fine details. It can occur in one eye or both, and is particularly common in people with nearsightedness, farsightedness, presbyopia, or astigmatism. 

Blurred vision is often coupled with headaches, sensitivity to light and irritated eyes. 

Blurred vision: What Is It And 11 Reasons You Might Experience It danielle macinnes Tcm3H f9TZY unsplash 1


11 reasons why you may have blurred vision 

Here are some of the most common causes of blurred vision. 

1. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is an eye condition caused by adenoviruses – the same viruses that cause common cold, bronchitis and sore throats. It’s characterised by red, burning eyes that can itch and feel gritty. 

Because of the inflammation it causes in the cornea, conjunctivitis can also cause blurred vision. This shouldn’t last long, however, and will usually subside in one to two weeks on its own. Cold compresses and over-the-counter eye drops can help to relieve symptoms. 

If blurred vision persists for any longer than that period, you should speak to an optometrist for professional guidance. 

2. Eye strain

Eye strain is a common eye condition that occurs when your eyes have been looking at and focusing on something for a prolonged period of time. As we continue to increase our daily use of smart phones and tablets digital eye strain is becoming a much more common issue. 

Common causes include driving long distances, reading, watching TV, and staring at a computer or phone screen without taking any breaks. 

If you have strained your eyes, you might experience headaches, tiredness, nausea, and – you guessed it – blurred vision.

The key to fixing blurred vision caused by eye strain is to rest your eyes as much as possible, and take breaks when focusing on something. 

3. Eye infections

Conjunctivitis isn’t the only eye infection that can cause blurred vision. 

Other infectious causes include:

  • Herpes keratitis: when your cornea gets infected if you have herpes
  • Endophthalmitis: a severe inflammation of the inside of your eye resulting from a bacterial or fungal infection
  • Blepharitis: inflammation of the eyelids, caused by clogging of the oil glands at the base of your eyelashes 
  • Styes: a pimple-like bump that develops on the eyelids, caused by blocked oil glands

In acute cases, each of these infections can cause blurred vision, although it should clear up once the infection has been treated. 

One way to reduce your chance of getting an eye infection is to take good care of your contact lenses, if you wear them. Taking them off at night and cleaning them can prevent bacteria from getting into your eye and causing an infection. 

4. Dry eye syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is when your eyes are chronically dry. Dry eyes can be itchy, sore, gritty, more watery than usual, sensitive to light, and cause blurred vision. 

Dry eyes are more likely to experience blurred vision because, without a properly formed tear film, the cornea will become irritated. This leads to light being scattered as it enters the eye, which can cause blurred vision. 

The most common cause of dry eye syndrome is insufficient tear production. This can usually be treated with over-the-counter eye drops or, in extreme cases, light therapy. Once dry eye syndrome has been treated, the symptom of blurred vision should stop. 

5. Age-related macular degeneration

As you age, you’ll likely experience age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – especially after the age of 60. This is a common condition that affects the centre of the retina that helps you see close-up details and objects directly in front of you. 

If you have AMD, blurred vision is a common side effect. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the condition, but vision aids can help to manage side effects, including blurred vision. 

You can lower your risk of getting AMD by exercising, keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels, not smoking, and eating a healthy, protein-rich diet. 

6. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a common eye condition caused by extra pressure and fluid build-up in the eye. This damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. It is an age-related condition and is especially prominent in those over the age of 70. 

Someone with glaucoma is likely to experience: nausea, vision loss, eye pain, headaches, light sensitivity and blurred vision. 

There are several treatments available for glaucoma, such as eye drops and laser eye surgery. These will prevent your vision from getting worse, and should improve blurred vision, although won’t be able to reverse damage that’s already occurred. 

7. Cataracts

Cataracts are when the lens – the small transparent disc in your eye – develops cloudy patches. Over time, these patches get bigger and can cause blurred vision, and even blindness. 

Think of the lens like a glass window. When you’re young, it’s fully transparent, but as you get older, it mists up. This is what can cause blurred vision. 

Thankfully, cataracts can be fixed quite easily by a surgical procedure that replaces the damaged lens with a clear plastic one. This is a pain-free surgery and will remove the side effects of cataracts, including blurred vision. 

8. Migraines

A migraine is a moderate or severe headache that usually causes a throbbing pain on one side of the head. 

Ocular migraines, in particular, can cause blurred vision, as well as nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Not all ocular migraines occur with a headache however, which can make them difficult to pinpoint. 

An ocular migraine is usually caused by narrowing blood vessels that restrict the blood flow to the eye. This can cause blurred vision, as well as other symptoms. 

Migraines – or what causes them – can be triggered by a wide range of factors, including stress, diet, sleep and the surrounding environment. If your migraines are consistently causing blurred vision, you should talk to your doctor about the steps you need to take to control them. 

9. Diabetes

If undiagnosed or uncontrolled, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy. This is when damaged blood vessels in the back of the eye start bleeding, due to high blood sugar levels. 

Diabetic retinopathy can cause blurred vision and even blindness if left untreated. That’s why, if you’re diabetic, it’s important to visit an eye doctor at least once a year. The condition is usually symptom-free until irreversible damage has occurred. 

If you catch it early, however, diabetic retinopathy can be treated with laser eye surgery, which will prevent the risk of blindness and stop any blurred vision caused by it. 

10. Stroke

A stroke – which is what happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off – can cause several symptoms, including:

  • A droopy face on one side 
  • Weakness on one side of the body 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Confusion 

Blurry or lost vision in both eyes can also occur if you have a stroke that cuts off blood supply to the part of your brain that controls vision. 

If you ever experience the symptoms of a stroke, you must call the emergency services immediately – even if your symptoms disappear quickly. If left untreated, a stroke can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage. 

11. Optic neuritis

Optic neuritis is an infection caused by inflammation of the optic nerve: the nerve that sends messages from your eye to your brain. This inflammation is usually caused by your immune system attacking the coating that covers and protects the nerve. 

When you have optic neuritis, your vision is dim and/or blurred, you can’t see colours, and your eyes hurt when you move them. It’s most common in people with multiple sclerosis, although it can also be triggered by things like medication. 

Most people usually recover from optic neuritis naturally, without treatment. In some cases, steroid medications are used to reduce inflammation in the optic nerve. 

How to treat blurred vision

The treatment options for blurred vision will depend on what is causing it. If it’s caused by an underlying condition, like the ones covered above, you should seek treatment for that first. 

If your blurred vision is chronic, however, and doesn’t have an obvious cause that can be treated first, your eye doctor will likely recommend one of the following treatments: 

  • A new prescription for glasses and contact lenses that tackle blurred vision 
  • Prescription eye drops or medications 
  • Laser eye surgery to correct irregularities in your cornea 

The good news is that blurred vision doesn’t have to be permanent. There are a wide range of treatment options available – you just need to find one that’s right for you.