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9 Causes of Blurry Vision

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Blurry vision all on its own could be quite mysterious. While your optometrist will have an idea of what symptoms go hand-in-hand with others, only a diagnosis at a comprehensive eye exam can help you understand why you have blurry vision.
Your eye is responsible for carefully focusing light into a small point at the back of your eye chamber, and to do so, it needs properly working components. There are many points at which your eye might fail to bend light properly, and blurry vision can often result. The trick lies in finding the cause for this debilitating symptom.

Chemical Injuries

Some workplaces require the use of chemicals with various hazardous properties. If a chemical with hazardous properties like corrosion, poison, or irritant gets in your eye, it will need flushing immediately.
Some eye burns we’ve encountered have affected patients who’ve only had contact with airborne chemical fumes; direct physical contact with your eye isn’t the only way a chemical can burn your eye
The following are a good indication of a chemical burn:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Tearing
  • Blurry Vision
  • Eyelid Swelling
  • Eyelid Twitching
  • Sensation of Something Your Eye

Blurred vision along with swelling, burning, itching, and notably, pain could be an indication that you’ve unwittingly come in contact with airborne chemicals. Please don’t ignore this set of symptoms, and treat it as an eye emergency.
If you can get help making it to an emergency room, or an optometrist offering emergency eye care, you should do so—after flushing for 10-15 minutes first.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is a dangerously fast eye disease that needs immediate attention and intervention. Blurry vision is one prominent symptom that’s accompanied by tunnel vision, nausea, halos, and acute pain.
It can pose a severe risk of blindness, so you really need to be careful in delaying treatment. Fortunately, it only affects a small portion of glaucoma patients. If you notice blurry vision with 1 or more of these symptoms, you might be better off reporting it as an eye emergency.

Detached Retina

Retinal detachment (RD) is a serious and sight-threatening issue. It can happen when the retina, a sensitive light-capturing layer at the back of your eye, gets starved of oxygen, or when a tear forms in the retina allowing fluid to wedge between the retina and the network of veins underneath.
Blurry vision can be accompanied by a grey, swirling curtain of floaters descending over your vision. You might also notice flashing lights preceding this type of vision loss.
Retinal detachment can stem from several root causes, but the result is the same: total or partial blindness without direct medical intervention. It’s an eye emergency without a doubt, so don’t delay visiting an emergency room at the first sign of blurry vision, swirling veils over your vision,  and flashes out of nowhere.

crowded street with figures obscured by blurry vision

Autoimmune Disorders Like Rheumatoid Arthritis & Iritis

Your iris is the coloured web that covers your pupil, letting light through to the ocular lens behind it. Iritis refers to an autoimmune reaction (or infection) of the iris. Iritis manifests with symptoms like blurry vision and sensitivity to light.
While it can occur by itself it can also work with another autoimmune disorder called rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis & Sjogren’s Syndrome

Rheumatoid arthritis itself often appears alongside Sjogren’s syndrome, another autoimmune disorder that attacks the moisture glands in your eyes and mouth, causing them to struggle with normal function.
This attack on moisture glands can lead to dry eye syndrome, which might also affect the outer vision-focusing surface, called the cornea. Some of our dry eye patients trace their dry eye symptoms to autoimmune disorders.
It’s likely that your physician helping you with autoimmune disorders can work with your optometrist to find a solution.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Whether caused by rheumatoid arthritis or a long list of other causes, dry eye syndrome itself can include symptoms of blurry vision.
Dry eye makes demands on patients to compensate for the main issue, an imbalance in your tear film, which itself can be built upon many possible underlying causes. Dry eye therapy is a multipronged approach to restoring your tear film’s balance. Luckily, it’s not as much of an eye emergency as other causes of blurry vision, so you can put the time in to find some relief.
Symptoms of dry eye other than blurry vision include:

  • Discomfort and irritation
  • Red eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Tired eyes
  • Feeling as if there is a foreign body in your eyes
  • Itching
  • Dryness

Eye Infections

If you have an eye infection, particularly a bacterial one, blurry vision may present itself as a symptom. Other indications include a rough sensation of grit in your eyes and sensitivity to light. If you have a bacterial eye infection, you’ll need a topical (meaning it’s directly applied on) or oral prescription of antibiotics, so please don’t delay in visiting your optometrist.


Cataracts can sometimes precipitate with blurry vision, especially if it comes and goes, or if it’s limited only to one of your eyes. Other difficulties include problems with night driving, halos around light sources, and refractive errors.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Perhaps one of the most important parts of your retina is the macula, the detail-detecting center of your eye. Abnormal blood vessels can grow there, causing blood or other fluid transfer that can interfere with your macular cells.

Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Along with blurriness, wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can come with other, quickly progressing, and sight-threatening symptoms. You might notice dark spots, hazy vision, and localized blurry spots in your field of vision. It tends to worsen quickly and noticeably.

Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

In dry AMD, blurriness is accompanied by a distortion of straight lines in your vision, difficulty seeing in low light, and trouble recognizing faces. It moves more slowly than wet AMD, so the symptoms can seem less obvious.
Treatment of Wet AMD can require drastic measures and quick thinking on the part of your eye doctor(s), so please don’t delay in reporting your symptoms.

Refractive Error

If you’ve noticed blurrier vision over time, there might not be too much cause for concern. It might just mean that your eyes and your prescription have changed. It could just be a problem with how your eye focuses light into the back of your eye, meaning the problem might only need glasses or contacts as a fix. But your optometrist will know more about prescription changes.

Ask Your Optometrist & Root Out the Cause

As optometrists, we find these causes of blurry vision to be some of the more notable ones, but there are more possible causes of blurry vision.
If you’re not sure what other symptoms accompany any experience of blurry vision, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Call and report an eye emergency, if symptoms the profile of the emergency conditions. If blurry vision seems to fit a more harmless profile, we’d be happy to discuss at a regular eye exam and a time that suits you!

Written by Dr. Rod Adams

Dr. Rod Adams is a graduate of the University of Alberta and the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry. Dr. Adams has been in private family practice since 1997. During this time, he has developed a strong interest in pediatric optometry and laser corrective surgery options.
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