Blurred Vision – Losing the Sharpness of Vision

A man with blurred vision holding his glasses

Any loss of sharpness of vision means that fine details of anything under regard are lost, and this phenomenon is called blurred vision. Objects appear hazy or out of focus, and the blur can be for near or distant objects or both.

The blurring of vision or poor eyesight may result from abnormalities which can be easy to treat, and may also be due to serious eye diseases. a

Common causes and treatments of blurred vision

This list is by no means exhaustive, but the common causes of blurred vision are:

  • Refractive Errors: Errors of refraction include myopia, hypermetropia, and astigmatism, the former two also being known as nearsightedness and farsightedness. Along with blurring, this usually results in eye strain and headaches. The most common treatment possibilities include spectacles, contact lenses and refractive surgery like LASIK.
  • Presbyopia: People over 40 years of age usually experience a blurred vision for near. It is because of the age-related changes in the natural lens of the eye, called presbyopia. Presbyopia is usually treated by the eyeglasses (reading glasses), and those with preexisting errors of refraction may require bifocals or progressive lenses.
  • Dry Eyes: Dry eye syndrome can also cause a transient blurred vision, with the blur fluctuating over the time. Lubricating eye drops usually help, but severe variants of the disease may require medical attention and punctal plugs.
  • Migraines: Severe headaches due to a migraine may also be associated by a transient blurring of vision, and this may be accompanied by flickering light, halos or zigzag patterns before a headache (called aura).
  • Eye Drops and Medication: Certain eye drops, especially those for checking your retina, and power of glasses can cause a transient blurring of vision. It resolves on its own, over two to six hours for most dilating drops (may be up to two weeks in case of atropine). Also, some anti-allergy, anti-hypertensive, and anti-depressant drugs can cause dry eyes and blurred vision, which response to tear supplements.
  • Change in the power of glasses/ contact lens: In case, your prescription for spectacles or contact lenses is not up to date, you will experience a visual blur, despite wearing corrective lenses. Wearing your contact lenses for longer than prescribed, or wearing eyeglasses that are dirty or with an oily residue may also cause a decrease in vision.
  • Pregnancy: Blurry vision in pregnant women occurs most often after the first trimester and may last throughout the pregnancy. It happens due to pregnancy hormones.

Serious eye diseases that can cause blurring of vision

Not all causes of blurred vision are innocuous and self-limiting. It is, therefore, necessary to visit your eye doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment, as several eye diseases can cause permanent damage to your eye health and vision also.

  • Cataract: Gradual, painless, progressive decrease of vision, especially in the elderly, is the hallmark of cataract. It may be associated with colored halos and glare, along with intolerance to bright lights. The treatment in early cases is with glasses, but the definitive procedure is surgical.
  • Glaucoma: Glaucoma is an asymptomatic disease, except for acute angle closure glaucoma which presents as an acutely painful red eye with loss of vision. Blurred vision or tunnel vision is seen in very advanced cases, and the vision loss is usually permanent. Treatment varies from the laser to eye drops to incisional surgery.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A gradual loss and blurring of vision, including distortions especially in the elderly, may be due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Treatment consists of observation, vitamin supplements, and injections into the eye, depending on the type and stage of the disease.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetes affects the retina of the eye and can cause the formation of new blood vessels. These blood vessels are leaky and can result in hemorrhages and swelling, which can lead to vision loss. Treatment ranges from observation to laser to intra-vitreal injections to complicated retinal surgery.
  • Eye Infection, Inflammation or Injury: These may also result in a transient decrease in vision, which may or may not resolve on the treatment. Proper medical care is instituted depending on the reason for the loss of the vision and the status of the eye disease.

Associated symptoms of blurred vision

Blurred vision may or may not be associated with additional symptoms, depending on the reason for the visual blur, and may affect one or both eyes. These include:

  • Photophobia or sensitivity to light
  • Pain in the eyes, or headaches
  • Floaters or spots/ mosquitos in front of the eye
  • Dryness and soreness of eyes
  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Watering and or discharge from the eyes
  • Signs of trauma to the eyes
  • The whiteness of the pupil

When should I contact my eye doctor about blurred vision?

When blurred vision is associated with one or more of the symptoms listed above, it is a good idea to contact your eye doctor. In case of a painful red eye, with or without discharge from the eyes, it is prudent to schedule an early appointment. Also, blurred vision may be an indicator of a serious systemic disease like a stroke or diabetes, so an examination becomes extremely important in those who have risk factors for the same.