Blurred Vision Is Often a Sign of a Serious Condition

A wide variety of medical ailments—some serious—can cause blurred vision, so if you experience this symptom, see your doctor right away.

blurred vision

Your eye doctor will be able to identify any issues that could potentially cause blurred vision early and recommend proper treatment.

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If you’re blessed with the gift of perfect or near-perfect eyesight, it can be quite jarring when you first experience a significant period of blurred vision. You’re not sure whether it’s a temporary occurrence or a sign that you might be losing your eyesight.

Blurred vision refers to a lack of sharpness in your sight, leading to an inability to see things in fine detail. It could last just a few seconds, or it could occur long-term and progressively worsen. Blurred vision can occur in one or both eyes, and while it can be caused by eye disease or injury, it can also be a symptom of a condition that doesn’t involve your eyes at all.

Causes of Blurred Vision

Blurred vision can result from many conditions—both minor and major—and most of them are preventable as well as treatable. The conditions below are some of the most common causes of blurred vision; all should be evaluated by a medical professional:

  • Astigmatism. A relatively common eye condition, astigmatism occurs when your cornea is irregularly shaped, thus preventing light from focusing on the retina in the back of the eye and making it difficult to focus on what’s in front of you. For more information, check out What Is Astigmatism and Why Does it Make Your Vision Blurry?
  • Headaches. Blurred vision is a common symptom of a migraine headache. Migraines can also make your eyes sensitive to light and cause an “aura” or visual disturbance right before the symptoms begin. For more information, check out Migraine Symptoms: Treatment (and Prevention) Tips.
  • Head injury. If you experience blurred vision after hitting your head, that’s often a sign of a concussion. Concussion symptoms can also include light and noise sensitivity, dizziness, and slurred speech. For more on concussions, check out “Concussion Symptoms: Here’s How to Identify Them.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

• Approximately 14 million Americans aged 12 years and older have self-reported visual impairment defined as distance visual acuity of 20/50 or worse.
1.6 million Americans aged 50 years and older have age related macular degeneration.
0.5 million (or 16 percent of) Americans aged 40 and older have cataracts.
2.2 million (or 2 percent of) Americans aged 40 and older have glaucoma.

There are many more conditions associated with blurred vision, including:

Blurred Vision Testing

Your eye doctor may perform one or more of the following tests to determine the cause of your blurred vision:

  • Ophthalmoscopy. This test allows your eye doctor to examine the back of your eye, including your retina, optic disc, and blood vessels. Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and optic nerve damage can be identified using this exam.
  • Refraction test. It checks your vision for refractive errors, such as astigmatism and myopia, and helps your eye doctor prescribe glasses or contact lenses if necessary.
  • Slit lamp examination. This procedure allows your doctor to view the back of your eye with greater magnification than a basic ophthalmoscopy by using a bright light from a stilt lamp.
  • Tonometry. This test detects changes in eye pressure by temporarily flattening or blowing a brief puff of air at your cornea. Some eye doctors alternatively use a handheld device called a Tono-Pen, which provides a digital measurement of eye pressure.
  • Blood tests. They can reveal hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which is common in people with diabetes, as well as your white blood cell count if infection is suspected.


Depending on the underlying cause of your blurred vision, your doctor may one or more of the following treatments:

  • Medication. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops to treat injuries or infection or other medications for underlying conditions that contribute to your blurred vision.
  • Laser surgery. These procedures are often used by eye doctors to treat refraction errors, glaucoma, cataracts, and floaters.
  • Food. If your blurred vision is caused by low blood sugar, foods containing fast-acting sugars are recommended to increase your blood sugar quickly.

How to Protect Your Eyes from Blurred Vision

To maintain optimal eye health, you should do the following, according to

  • Protect your eyes from the sun. When in the sun, always wear sunglasses that include 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays, which can protect you from long-term eye damage.
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy for your eyes. Foods that are rich in three particular carotenoids—lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin—can protect your eyes from damage, fatigue, and vision loss. Fish, eggs, and avocado are just a few of the foods that are a good source of these carotenoids. For more information, check out Eating for Eyesight: Which Foods Protect Your Eyes?
  • Avoid (or quit) smoking. Smoking increases your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
  • Get a yearly eye exam. Your eye doctor will be able to identify any issues that could potentially cause blurred vision early and recommend proper treatment. Report any noticeable changes to your doctor as soon as possible in between your exams.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. Research suggests there is a link between cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes. This is particularly important if you wear contact lenses. Washing your eyes before putting them in or taking them out can reduce risk of infection.
  • Properly protect your head and eyes when working in dangerous situations. It’s important to guard yourself against concussions or severe eye injuries when operating heavy machinery or doing home repairs.

As a service to our readers, University Health News offers a vast archive of free digital content. Please note the date published or last update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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Chandra Johnson-Greene

Chandra has been the Audience Development Editor at Belvoir Media Group since 2016. Prior to joining the company, Chandra held various writing, editing, PR and social media roles at HooplaHa-Only … Read More

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