Vision Loss or Change

Is this your symptom?

  • Loss or change in vision
  • Blurred vision or seeing double
  • Seeing floaters (small drifting spots), flashing lights or haloes
  • If caused by an injury, see the Eye Injury care guide

Causes of Loss of Vision

  • Most changes to vision can be treated if seen early by a doctor.
  • Never ignore changes in vision. Always call your doctor.

Causes of Sudden Loss or Change in Vision

  • Object in Eye (serious). Things such as sand, dirt or sawdust can get into the eyes. The eye can get infected and leak pus if the object is not taken out. The infection will not get better with eyedrops. Can cause long term loss of sight.
  • Eye Scratches. The eye will be red, watery and hurt, if scratched. Vision may be blurry. Happens when putting in contacts or removing an object from the eye. May feel like you have something in your eye. Scratches get better fast but the eye may need to be covered to heal.
  • Shingles (serious) is a painful rash that looks like a line of blisters. Can happen on the eye. Pain may be dull, sharp or stabbing. Can cause long term changes to vision.
  • Cold Sore Virus (serious) can cause eye infections, long term vision changes, blisters and pain. Often in one eye of adults who have had cold sores.
  • Swollen Nerve in the Eye causes quick loss of vision in one or both eyes. Vision may be darker with less color. Can be painful and happen more than one time. Can be linked to other illness.
  • Fast Onset Glaucoma (serious) happens when the flow of fluids in the eye is stopped. Pressure builds up in the eye that can cause long term changes in vision. Most common in people 50 years and older. Get checked by a doctor right away. Symptoms are:
    • Severe pain that starts quickly
    • Seeing rings around lights
    • Light bothers the eyes
    • Watery eye
    • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
    • Headache
  • Scleritis (serious) feels like a severe dull eye pain. Pain can spread to the jaw or forehead. Light may bother the eyes. You may notice changes in vision. More common in people 50 years and older with other health problems.
  • Endophthalmitis (serious) is a painful, red eye and poor sight after a surgery or a hit to the eye. May also be linked to drug use or weak immune system.
  • Detached Retina (serious) can cause you see spots, shadows and flashes. May cause you to be blind. Not painful in most cases.
  • Blocked Blood Vessels in Back of Eye. Vision can be lost quickly if the eye is not getting enough blood. It does not cause pain.
  • Bleeding in Center of Eye causes vision to become dark. Does not hurt. Goes away on its own over weeks or months. Vision will go back to normal.
  • Deep Infection in Eye (serious) can be in the eyelid and around the eye. Often only on one side. Can be caused by other infections in or near the eye. Symptoms are:
    • Red, swollen, very sore eye
    • Eye looks pushed out
    • Seeing double
    • Sight is not clear
    • Fluid leaking from eye
  • Artery in Temple Swells (serious). This is more common in people 70 years or older. Does not cause pain in the eye. See a doctor right away to protect your eye from long term loss of vision. Symptoms are:
    • Loss of vision in one or both eyes
    • Hurts to touch temple
    • Bad headaches
    • Pain in jaw when eating
  • Severe Headache can cause short term changes in vision. Changes can be in one or both eyes and lasts about an hour. Headache may last longer.
  • Stroke (serious). Bleeding or blood clot in the brain. Vision changes can be short term or long term.
  • Dry Eye Syndrome happens when not enough tears are made by the eye. The eyes feel gritty and hurt, but are not red. More common with old age. Can be caused by medicines or other health problems. Pink eye with pus can be common with dry eyes.

Causes of Slow Loss of Vision

  • Cataracts cause sight to be cloudy in one or both eyes. If severe, colors may seem less bright and car lights sparkle.
  • Pterygium. The white part of the eye gets yellow and thick. Can grow onto the clear part we see through and block your vision.
  • Loss of Focus happens with age and can often be fixed with glasses, contacts or surgery.
  • Long-term Glaucoma is not painful. Often not noticed at first because changes to vision are very slow. May cause you to see rings of light around objects. Vision changes may last forever.
  • Macular Degeneration. Loss of vision straight in front of you. Caused by a break down in eye cells.
  • Diabetes and Hypertension can harm blood vessels in the eyes that can change your vision.
  • Retina Cell Break Down makes it hard to see at night. You may not be able to see things on your side when looking straight. Happens most to people 10 to 30 years old.
  • Brain or Eye Tumor is not common, but can cause slow loss of vision.

When to Call for Vision Loss or Change

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Vision is blurred
  • Seeing double or can't look up
  • Eye pain or discomfort is more than mild
  • Sudden onset of flashes of light, floaters or haloes in your vision
  • Feeling like a curtain coming across the vision
  • Eye pain or discomfort is more than mild
  • Weak immune system. Examples are: sickle cell disease, HIV, cancer, organ transplant, taking oral steroids, diabetes, kidney problems.
  • You are already blind in the other eye
  • Bright light hurts your eyes but none of the above symptoms
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You see floater(s); small spots that float across your vision
  • Eye pain and you are more than 50 years old
  • Headache
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • Slow changes in your vision over a period of months or years
  • Last eye exam was more than 1 year ago
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Short-term blurred vision, could be from eye strain

Care Advice for Eye Strain

  1. What You Should Know about Eye Strain:
    • Eye strain is when the eyes feel tired, achy, dry (or watery) or irritated. It may be hard for you to focus. Objects may seem blurry.
    • Eye strain can happen after long periods of reading, driving, watching TV or using a computer or smartphone.
    • It can get worse after a working for long periods of time or getting poor sleep.
    • Eye strain can lead to headaches.
    • Here is some care advice that may help.
  2. Rest Your Eyes:
    • Close your eyes for 10 minutes. Take breaks from the activity that is causing the strain.
    • Look around and focus on different objects around the area from time to time.
    • Blink more often.
    • Make sure you are up to date with your glasses or contact lenses.
  3. Check Lighting in Your Work Area:
    • Increase the lighting if the room is too dim.
    • Keep your computer screen 20-25 inches away from your eyes and slightly below eye level.
    • Reduce monitor brightness.
    • Reduce the glare and any bright reflections on the screen.
  4. If Your Eyes Are Dry:
    • Apply a warm, damp washcloth over closed eyes.
    • Use lubricating eye drops such as "artificial tears." No prescription needed.
    • Make sure the air quality is good in your space (no smoke).
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You think you need to be seen
    • Resting your eyes does not help
    • Your symptoms get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Last Reviewed: 10/11/2023 1:01:15 AM
Last Updated: 4/22/2023 1:00:44 AM

Copyright 2023 Schmitt Decision Logic LLC.

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