by Katherine Brind’Amour, PhD
Blurry vision is very common. With causes ranging from the natural aging process to stroke, however, it’s important to find out why your vision is blurry.
In most cases, the cause is likely to be common and treatable — or even just a temporary change. In others, it can be the first sign of a serious health condition or permanent vision damage. By learning what is behind your blurry vision, you can get appropriate treatment. In most cases, these can include natural therapies to improve vision or focus and prevent blurry vision from happening again.
What Is Blurry Vision?
Blurry vision can be any loss of focus or sharpness in what you see. It may be in one eye or both, in just one area of vision (such as the outer field of your vision) or in everything you look at. Furthermore, it can be blurry just for things that are close up or just for things far away, or just in certain situations.
In most cases, blurry vision is either temporary and mild or a simple sign that your sight is not perfect. In others, however — especially in cases of sudden blurry vision — it can signal a serious health concern. Minor or gradual changes in vision should be examined by an eye doctor. If you have a sudden or dramatic change in vision, seek medical care right away.
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of blurry vision include:
- Unclear vision at any distance
- Lack of detail or focus when you look at something
- Fuzzy edges
- Cloudy vision or indistinct vision
- Floating spots across your field of vision
- Squinting, rubbing your eyes or blinking often
These changes can come on very slowly or suddenly. They may also come and go, particularly if they are associated with sun exposure, eye strain, headaches or other health problems. They may also affect one or both eyes.
Other symptoms you may experience at the same time can be related to the cause of your vision problems. For example, eye redness and irritation may indicate you have an eye infection. Dizziness or slurred speech together with sudden blurry vision may indicate a stroke. Headache and vision changes may indicate you have a migraine starting.
Always seek professional medical care if you have worrying symptoms or sudden changes in vision.
Causes & Risk Factors
Causes of blurred vision include everything from mild eyesight imperfections to serious health problems.
Some of the most common causes of blurry vision include: (1)
- Myopia, hyperopia and presbyopia — These are better known as nearsightedness, farsightedness and trouble reading things up close. They happen when one or both eyes lose the ability to focus correctly. Trouble focusing can lead people to squint or cause eye strain or headaches.
- Astigmatism — This is an irregularly shaped cornea that causes things at any distance to look blurry. It’s caused when light rays entering the eyes don’t all come to a single focus point on your retina.
- Chronic dry eyes — This syndrome, in which your eyes don’t make enough natural tears, can cause blurry or changing vision.
- Fatigue, too much sun or eye strain — Sometimes stress on our eyes from staying up too long or getting too much sun can lead to mild, temporary blurred vision. It usually goes away with rest.
- Pregnancy — Vision changes — including blurry vision, dry eyes and double vision — can happen during pregnancy since hormones change the shape of your eye. However, some vision changes during pregnancy may indicate a serious health problem, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure).
- Migraines — These intense headaches can have a vision component. They may cause temporary blurred vision, the appearance of flickering lights, halos, kaleidoscope (fractured vision) and zigzag patterns.
- Eye drops, medications or LASIK surgery — Some treatments for eye problems, including medicated eye drops and LASIK vision surgery, can cause blurry vision. They may also cause dry eyes or irritation that can lead to blurry vision. Allergy pills may cause dry eyes or blurred vision as a side effect.
- Eye floaters — Drifting floaters in your vision can make things look blurry or unclear. They are more common with age, but if you notice a sudden onslaught of floaters, see an eye doctor immediately. This may be a sign of a torn retina.
- Contacts or glasses — Wearing the wrong prescription in contacts or glasses, or wearing contacts for too long, can cause blurry vision. Just as eyeglasses can get smudged or covered in film that makes things hard to see, proteins and other debris can build up on contact lenses.
More serious causes of blurry vision include: (1)
- Eye infections or diseases — Infections and irritation problems such as uveitis, eye herpes and optic neuritis (inflammation) can all cause blurry vision. In addition, a macular hole in the retina can lead to sudden blurry vision.
- Cataracts — Although the telltale sign is cloudy vision, many people report blurry vision, glares, a haze over their eyes and night “halos” of light when they have a cataract.
- Age-related macular degeneration — Older people may notice a gradual loss, distortion or blurring of vision.
- Glaucoma — This can cause gradual or sudden blurring of vision at the edges of your field of sight, or a narrowing of the vision field (tunnel vision).
- Diabetic retinopathy — In people with diabetes, damage to blood vessels can develop in the eyes, causing blurry vision.
- Stroke — Blurry vision with or without double vision can be a sign of a brain hemorrhage or stroke. Any sudden change in vision is a reason to see your doctor right away.
- Multiple sclerosis — Blurry vision can be caused by this neurological condition and can sometimes be an early sign of the disease.
- Other — Some other conditions, such as prematurity or brain tumors, can also result in vision changes or vision loss.
- Older age
- Infection in your mother during her pregnancy (toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus or other infections)
- Being born very premature (less than 30 weeks gestation) or weighing less than 1,500 grams at birth
- Family history of eye diseases, poor eyesight or eye disorders
- Family history of metabolic or genetic disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Anxiety or stress
- Poor diet
- Neurological diseases
- Sickle cell anemia
- Hyperviscosity syndrome
- High blood pressure
- Eye infection
- Extended sun exposure
- Eye strain
- Migraines or frequent headaches
- Dry eyes
- Recent eye surgery or eye trauma
- Taking eye medications
- Taking other medications with blurry vision or vision changes as a side effect, including some allergy medicines
- Long-term corticosteroid use
Treatment for blurry vision depends on the underlying cause. In some cases, the blurriness goes away on its own and does not require treatment. This is often the case for vision changes associated with migraines, eye strain and sun exposure. In other cases, once the cause is taken away, vision will return to normal. Examples include medications and health conditions that cause blurry vision as a side effect.
In general, treatments depend on the cause of blurry vision and include:
- Glasses — The most common treatment specifically for blurry vision is prescription eyeglasses.
- Rewetting drops — Medicated drops to moisten dry eyes or to help you produce your own natural tears, if your blurry vision is caused by dry eye syndrome.
- Medication changes — Your doctor may recommend an alternative over-the-counter or prescription medication if a drug is causing your blurry vision.
- Treatment of the underlying health problem — People with blurry vision caused by diabetic retinopathy, preeclampsia, glaucoma, stroke, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions can often experience improvements in their vision once their main health condition is treated. In many cases, this requires prescription medication and lifestyle changes. However, vision changes can be permanent and lead to loss of sight in some cases, particularly if they go untreated.
5 Natural Treatments for Blurry Vision
As with conventional medicine, natural treatments for blurry vision depend on the cause of the blurriness. Once you know why you have blurry vision, you may consider some of the natural therapies below if they are appropriate for your diagnosis.
Protect your eyes
Blurred vision can be caused by a number of environmental things, including trauma, infections, sun exposure and more. These practical, natural ways to protect your eyes may reduce the likelihood of blurry vision from these causes.
- Get regular vision checkups. Regular eye exams give your eye doctor the opportunity to identify possible problems with your vision, including serious eye conditions, infections and irritants.
- Keep corrective eyewear clean. Follow your eye doctor’s instructions for cleaning contacts and replace them according to directions on the package. This will avoid protein buildup that can make things look blurry. Similarly, keep your eyeglasses clean by wiping them regularly with an eyeglass cloth and using cleaning solution as needed.
- Wear eye protection. This includes safety goggles during home improvement projects and contact sports, sunglasses during outdoor time and water goggles when swimming. This helps protect your eyes from trauma, UV light and irritants such as sand and chlorine.
- Give your eyes rest. If you work in front of a computer screen or spend a lot of time reading, give your eyes frequent breaks. Look up from the computer or whatever you’re reading at least once every 15 minutes. Blink frequently, particularly when looking at computer or phone screens to keep your eyes moist. Let your eyes focus on something that is at a different distance. For example, focus on a tree outside the window for at least 30 seconds. This adjustment in focus and relief from close screens or reading gives your eyes a break and can reduce eye strain.
- Use proper lighting. Eye strain and fatigue can also be caused when lighting conditions are not ideal. Whether it’s too bright or too dim, your eyes may need to strain to see properly. Try to keep light brightness and placement in a range that allows you to have your eyes comfortably open without squinting or watering.
- Don’t smoke. Smokers have a much higher risk of developing many eye problems that can cause blurry vision and vision loss. These include cataracts, macular degeneration, dry eyes, uveitis and diabetic retinopathy. (6)
If you have blurry vision that is temporary or associated with particular situations, you may be able to identify and avoid triggers. Some common triggers for blurred vision episodes include migraines, stress and anxiety, and poorly controlled health conditions.
- Keep a headache diary. Many people who regularly experience headaches or migraines can use a journal to identify triggers. Track what you eat, how many hours of sleep you get, and other events that occurred before the headache began. You may see a pattern in what triggers your headaches. Common triggers include certain foods, alcohol or caffeine, stress, tiredness and more. Once you know the triggers, you can try to avoid or minimize them to reduce your chances of getting a headache. If headaches come along with blurry vision, reducing headaches may also reduce your vision disturbances.
- Dr. Axe has several additional suggestions for natural headache remedies that may also be useful for minimizing headache pain or how long they last.
- Avoid anxiety. If your vision gets blurry during periods of high anxiety, practice solutions for reducing anxiety. These include:
- Speaking with an anxiety coach or psychotherapist
- Support groups and spending time with loved ones
- Keep stress in check. Similar to anxiety, high stress levels can cause some people to experience temporary vision changes, including blurry vision. This can also be brought on by physical fatigue during periods of high stress and little sleep. You can try some of Dr. Axe’s strategies for relieving stress. These include yoga, prayer, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, a nutrient-dense diet and more.
- Get enough rest. Lack of sleep and physical fatigue can both contribute directly to blurry vision, stress, anxiety, headaches and many other health problems that can cause blurry vision. Avoid screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed (an hour is even better) and use blue-light filter options on your phone or tablet, if available, during the evening.
Practice vision exercises
Many people’s vision naturally gets worse with age. If you have blurry vision due to nearsightedness, farsightedness or age-related difficulty seeing up close, you may need prescription eyewear. In addition to having an eye exam to get a diagnosis and prescription from a professional, you may be interested in vision exercises to improve or maintain your vision.
While eye exercises are considered useful for people with particular alignment issues and a few key eye diseases, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says there is no scientific evidence that they actually improve sight for people with nearsightedness, farsightedness and other common vision problems. (7) However, there is no harm in doing the exercises, and some people swear by them. They may help with eye strain and fatigue. Regardless, you should not expect immediate or extreme improvement in your vision, even with regular use of the exercises. (8)
- The Trombone: Hold a small object, such as a pen, at arm’s length. Focus on the object as you slowly bring it back to touch your nose. Then stay focused on it as you move it back out to arm’s length.
- Eye Massage: Using your fingertips, apply steady pressure or do a circular massage of the areas around the outside of your eye sockets. This may help ease tension and relax your facial muscles.
- Analytic Vision: When looking at any object (or person, words, etc.) you can try analyzing it visually using micromovements. Basically, you look at the object and “draw” the edges and lines within the object, tracing the details with your eyes. However, the idea is to move quickly from element to element so that you’re not starting and trying to focus in on any part in particular. Blink freely as you go. Then look at the object as a whole to see if it appears clearer.
- Flash Method: Use a deck of cards or pack of dominos to use as flash cards. Draw a card or cube from the pile, hold it at arm’s length and glance at it for less than a second, blinking as you wish. Stop looking at it and try to guess how many dots were on the domino or what card it was.
These exercises can be repeated until your eyes feel tired. You can spend a few minutes a day on each and do them several times each day. Some of the above exercises, and many others, were developed by an eye specialist in the early 20th century named Dr. William Bates, who believed that exercises could be used as to improve vision and avoid the need for eyeglasses. (9)
Manage underlying health conditions
Vision problems are often related to underlying health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, glaucoma or sinus infections. To improve your vision, you may need to first treat the other health problem. Work with your eye doctor and a medical professional to come up with the optimal plan for your main health condition as well as your vision. Your vision may improve on its own once you have treated the other problem. If it doesn’t, discuss a plan for managing your vision issues moving forward.
The following natural strategies may help address common health issues that result in vision problems:
- Minimize sinus infections. Congestion and itchy, dry or watery eyes from sinus infections can lead to blurry vision. Some medications for sinus infections and seasonal allergies can also cause blurry vision as a side effect. You may benefit from some natural remedies for sinus infections or ways to prevent infections in the first place. These include: (10)
- Staying hydrated
- Taking hot showers or inhaling steam
- Nasal irrigation
- Proper hygiene (keep your hands clean and keep your fingers away from your nose, mouth and eyes)
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Diabetes, heart disease and many other conditions that can lead to poor vision can improve when our diets are appropriate. Although dietary needs change depending on your particular health concern, diets high in vegetables and low in processed foods are fairly consistent recommendations. Most people should also minimize fatty meats, added sugar and simple carbohydrates, and foods that have limited nutritional value.
- Get regular eye exams. The eye doctor can detect problems such as infection, tissue damage and other problems that may be causing blurred vision. They can also spot warning signs for underlying diseases and recommend appropriate treatments or prescriptions. By getting regular checkups, you maximize your chances of catching vision problems or other serious health problems before they do permanent damage to your vision.
- Try natural dry eye remedies. If dry eyes are leading to blurry vision for you, try some natural remedies. These include:
- Avoiding places or activities with a lot of air movement (windy areas, a room with fans, biking, etc.) or protecting your eyes with goggles or glasses
- Avoiding areas with cigarette smoke or fire smoke
- Using a humidifier
- Placing warm compresses on your eyes, followed by washing your eyelids with a gentle cleanser
- Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Get regular prenatal care. Women with vision changes during pregnancy may require glasses temporarily. However, some may require extra monitoring for blood pressure and seizure concerns. By telling your prenatal care provider about any vision changes, you can make sure you are regularly evaluated for preeclampsia so that risk to you and the baby is minimized.
Studies have found various dietary supplements to help with eye health. However, not all eye problems can be prevented or improved with supplements. For example, the strongest research for the impact of supplements on vision protection is for age-related macular degeneration. If your doctor agrees that some or all of the supplements below are safe for you based on your other medications, you may wish to try them to see if they improve your blurry vision or overall eye health: (11, 12)
- Vitamins B1 (thiamine), C and E
- Folic acid
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Beta carotene
Many of these antioxidants and vitamins can also be found in diets heavy in healthy vegetables and proteins: (8)
- Green leafy vegetables and eggs have lutein and zeaxanthin
- Citrus fruits and many vegetables have vitamin C
- Eggs, cold-water fish, nuts and olive or flaxseed oils have healthy fatty acids
- Green leafy vegetables, beef and legumes have zinc
- Sweet potatoes and nuts contain vitamin E
- Always seek urgent medical help if you experience a sudden or extreme change in vision.
- If you have sudden, painless blurry or double vision accompanied by the following signs or symptoms, seek care immediately — you may be having a stroke:
- Drooping of the face
- Balance difficulties
- Slurred speech, unclear or mixed up words
- Numbness or weakness in one arm
- If you are pregnant and notice blurry vision, call your physician immediately. It may be a sign of preeclampsia.
- Sudden blurred vision and headache, with or without other visual disturbances, can be a sign of migraine onset. You may also feel sensitive to light, see flashing lights, wavy lines, spots or halos, or even lose some of your vision temporarily. If this has never happened to you before, contact a physician immediately. If these symptoms usually happen together with a headache, you may benefit from migraine treatments. Discuss the problem and symptoms with a doctor.
- Visit an eye doctor to have any vision changes evaluated. Even temporary or gradual changes in vision can signal a serious condition that can affect your long-term health or lead to vision loss.
- Do not start or stop taking prescription medications based on side effects without first discussing the change with your doctor.
- Do not start any new supplements or herbal remedies for vision without first consulting your doctor. Natural remedies may interact with other medications and have unexpected side effects that can be dangerous for people with certain health conditions.
Key Points About Blurry Vision
- Blurred vision is very common. It can be caused by many things, but the most common is simply poor vision. This can be corrected with eyeglasses.
- Other common causes of blurred vision include migraines and underlying health problems, such as glaucoma, eye infection or migraines.
- Blurry vision may come and go or be permanent. In some cases, it can be the precursor or warning sign of permanent vision damage. Depending on the cause, symptoms may come on slowly or suddenly and may cause blurry vision in one eye or both.
- People may also experience other symptoms, such as cloudy vision or blurry vision and headache or dizziness. In some cases, these can indicate a serious health problem, such as a stroke or diabetic retinopathy.
- Any sudden or significant changes in vision should be examined immediately by a medical professional.
5 Natural Ways to Help Boost Eye Health:
- Protect your eyes
- Avoid triggers
- Practice vision exercises
- Manage underlying health conditions
- Consider supplements
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