In a perfect world, your vision would be crisp and clear at all times. Unfortunately, most of us have dealt with blurred vision at least once in our lifetimes. That blurred vision could be caused by many things, but there are three common culprits that can steal your vision away. Each has a different cause and a slightly different method of treatment. Some don't even need formal treatment at all.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, causes constantly blurred distance vision. Treatment can help you cope with the issue, but it cannot be cured. (Learn more) Some types of headaches can cause transient blurred vision, and some headaches should prompt you to visit a doctor right away. (Learn more)
Squinting or straining to see objects can cause eyestrain, and that can also blur your vision. If self-care doesn't make your strain symptoms fade, you may need to see a doctor. (Learn more) A relationship with a doctor is vital, whether your blurred vision is constant or transient.
Myopia Is a Common Cause of Blurred Vision
Your eye uses a series of lenses, muscles, and clear tissues to push light to the back of your eye. When light doesn't move through the eye in an optimal manner and converges in the middle of the eye, distant objects can seem blurred while close objects are crisp. Myopia is often caused by an eyeball that is slightly too long.
The prevalence of myopia is on the rise, according to the National Eye Institute. By 2050, there will be more than 40 million people in the United States with myopia. Researchers are working hard to uncover the cause for this increase, but it's suspected that a modern lifestyle involving hours spent indoors, looking at computer screens and electronics, plays a role.
Myopia is measured in diopters, and a higher number correlates to blurrier items at a distance. According to the American Optometric Association, people with low levels of myopia have prescriptions at 3 diopters and smaller. Those with high myopia have prescriptions of 6 diopters or higher.
Someone with low myopia might need glasses in order to drive, but might not need to wear those glasses while reading or working on a computer. Someone with high myopia, on the other hand, might need some kind of help in order to do almost anything, including cooking, hiking, or watching a movie. Without some sort of assistance, those with high myopia might not see anything at all.
Myopia is often corrected with glasses, and according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Americans spend $15 billion on eyewear each year. Glasses can help people with myopia to see items at a distance, and as mentioned, they are easy to take off when distance vision is not required. Even so, glasses can be less than optimal for some people. They tend to bounce and jostle on the face, and they can steam up when exposed to warm air.
Contact lenses allow for myopia correction without the use of glasses. They can be placed on the surface of the eye and offer natural-seeming vision without hardware sitting on the face. Some people need time to adjust to the idea of placing a lens on the eye and removing that item again, but when the adjustment is made, contacts can offer crisp vision with little hassle.
Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) also offers promise for people with myopia. In late adulthood, myopia symptoms tend to stop progressing, and when that happens, a surgical correction can be made to offer clear vision without the constant use of glasses or contact lenses. LASIK takes just minutes to perform, and within a week or so of surgery, people may experience better vision than they've experienced in years.
These treatments can help to amend blurred distance vision, but as authors writing in the journal Optometry and Vision Science point out, they cannot cure the underlying issue that causes myopia. People with a too-long eyeball will still have that condition even while wearing contacts or undergoing LASIK. Those with high myopia are at risk for serious eye issues, including retinal detachment and glaucoma. Those issues can cause blindness. As a result, it's vital for people with high myopia to visit a doctor on a regular basis.
Since myopia progression tends to stop in adulthood, when the human body stops growing, it is difficult to reverse the problem in adults. But researchers are looking for ways to help children. According to Mayo Clinic, there are four types of therapy that might help to amend myopia progression.
- Mandatory outside time for children and adolescents, as sunshine has been connected to an ideal eye shape as it grows
- The nighttime use of rigid contact lenses to help curb the eye's curve
- Modified contact lenses, which prompt the eye to focus evenly along the sides
- Atropine drops, which may help to curb myopia through an unknown mechanism
Some adults believe that they should undercorrect their myopia with prescriptions that are slightly less strong than they should be. This undercorrection, they believe, will strengthen eye muscles and make myopia better. Unfortunately, research suggests that this is not an effective approach.
In a study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, researchers examined the records of 2,000 patients. They compared myopia progression in those who were undercorrected and in those who had proper correction levels. At the end of the study, they discovered that undercorrection was associated with myopia progression. In other words, weaker lenses made myopia worse and not better.
Studies like this demonstrate why it is so important to get help for myopia when it occurs and why you should use the lenses prescribed. Straining your eyes with weaker lenses may not help. In fact, that straining could lead to another form of blurred vision.
Some Types of Headaches Can Cause Blurred Vision
Myopia isn't the only condition that can blur your vision. Some types of headaches come with ocular disturbances that may include blurring of vision.
Consider migraines. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 12 percent of the population has migraines. This neurological condition is often described as painful, but some forms of migraine come with changes in vision.
A traditional aura that accompanies migraine can cause starbursts or zigzags of color to clutter the visual field, and those unusual appearances can also be accompanied by blurring of vision. Some people experience an aura before the pain of the migraine hits, while others experience the aura with no pain at all.
The American Migraine Foundation reports that visual disturbances typically last between 10 and 30 minutes. People with recurrent migraines may grow accustomed to the disturbances, and they may use them as a warning that pain is about to begin. Others may experience visual issues only rarely, and they may find them frightening.
Migraine is a neurologic condition, and it can be treated. People who experience these symptoms can and should get help from a doctor. Medications may help to ease the symptoms that accompany migraines, and medications may also help to prevent some migraine frequency.
Other types of headaches can also cause blurred vision. Cluster headaches, tension headaches, and headaches caused by colds and flu can all trigger the visual field to blur. These sorts of headache issues may go away quickly even if you never see a doctor and ask for help. But the American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that some headache symptoms should prompt a visit to a doctor. You should make an appointment if your headaches:
- Wake you up at night.
- Are severe or frequent.
- Change in frequency or severity.
- Are new to you.
Headaches can be symptoms of more serious conditions, including cancer, so your doctor may need to perform testing to determine what is causing the pain and what can be done to amend the issue.
Eyestrain Can Also Blur Your Vision
Your eyes are remarkable pieces of equipment that are designed to shift in focus from near to far. Small muscles that line the inside and outside of the eye assist with both movement and focus, and sometimes, the habits we engage in on a regular basis push those muscles to the extreme.
The American Optometric Association reports that some people develop a computer vision syndrome, in which headache and blurred vision develops due to long periods of time spent looking at a computer screen, tablet, or phone. The issue can be exacerbated by:
- Uncorrected vision issues.
- Poor lighting.
- Poor workstation setup.
- Poor posture.
If you're dealing with this form of blurred vision, you may notice that your vision seems clear in the morning and worsens throughout the day. On the weekends, when you are not working, you may have no vision issues at all.
Mayo Clinic reports that eyestrain can be bothersome and irritating, but it's not typically serious. Self-care should make the problem stop. Looking away from the computer screen regularly, blinking often, and resting the eyes should restore vision. If these self-care steps do not help, a visit to the doctor may be in order.
When you visit the doctor, it is vital to point out that your symptoms come and go. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports suggest that eyestrain can be misdiagnosed as myopia, leading to prescriptions for glasses that you really do not need. Talking honestly with your doctor about when your blurred vision appears and what makes it better can help you avoid getting treatment for problems you don't have all the time.
Paying attention to your workplace environment is a smart way to help with eyestrain. Make sure you're sitting a comfortable distance from the screen rather than pressing your face up to the glass. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to look away from the screen at regular intervals, and use your lunch break to rest your eyes. Take a walk outside or talk with friends rather than scrolling through social media on your phone.
Partner With a Doctor You Can Trust
Caring for your eyes is crucial, whether your blurred vision is constant or intermittent. If you're not sure what to do to keep your eyes as healthy as they should be, you're not alone. Many of us wonder if we're taking all the right steps to protect our sight, and we're not sure if the self-care steps we're using are enough to do the job.
Make a relationship with an ophthalmologist you can trust. This eye health professional can explain how to best care for your eyes, and if you need treatment for blurred vision, your doctor can perform that therapy for you. At NVISION, we have professional and caring clinicians who can work with you to protect and treat your eyes. And we're accepting appointments right now. Just contact us to find out more about how we can help you see clearly, both now and in the future.
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Statistics and Data: Myopia. National Eye Institute.
Care of the Patient With Myopia. (2006). American Optometric Association.
Eye Health Statistics. (2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Treatment Options for Myopia. (June 2009). Optometry and Vision Science.
Nearsightedness. (May 2018). Mayo Clinic.
Under-Correction of Myopia Increases Myopic Progression: A Retrospective Study. (March 2012). Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.
About Migraine. Migraine Research Foundation.
Visual Disturbances: Related to Migraine or Not? American Migraine Foundation.
Headaches. (September 2018). American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Computer Vision Syndrome. American Optometric Association.
Eyestrain: Symptoms and Causes. (October 2018). Mayo Clinic.
Spasm of the Near Reflex: A Case Report. (June 2017). American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports.