Our vision changes as we age, and it’s perfectly normal to experience gradual vision changes. But what if you experience a sudden change in vision? What might that mean and how do you know if it’s serious?

Here are some sudden vision problems you might experience, and how to know whether or not you should seek medical advice.

 

Sudden total or near-total vision loss

Sudden total or near-total vision loss is a medical emergency, and you should see an eye doctor right away or head to the ER.

While partial vision loss is likely less serious, sudden total or near-total vision loss can be caused by what’s called a central retinal artery occlusion, a blood clot in your eye that could result in permanent blindness. This also means you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke. You might experience this like a curtain suddenly drops over your eye.

 

Blurry or blurred vision

Blurry vision is fairly common and many times, not cause for concern. It might be brought on by eye strain, possibly because you’ve spent too much time in front of a computer or other screen. It can also be a sign of a refractive error, like nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia), which can be easily solved with a new eyeglasses prescription from your eye doctor. It can even be a symptom of dry eyes.

But if you haven’t been staring at a screen and your blurred vision isn’t alleviated by giving your eyes a break or getting new glasses, then it’s possible it may be indicative of something more serious. Especially if your sudden blurry vision is accompanied by eye pain, severe headache, or difficulty speaking, then it may be a symptom of one of these conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Retinal detachment or tear
  • Macular degeneration
  • Macular hole

 

Loss of peripheral vision

A loss of your side vision may be signaling that you have glaucoma. With this eye disease, pressure gradually builds in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. Along with difficulty seeing things to the side, you may also have a hard time seeing in dim light or have trouble navigating while walking.

Beyond glaucoma, there are other eye problems that may cause you to lose peripheral vision, and all require medical attention. These include:

  • Detached retina
  • Brain damage from stroke or injury
  • Neurological damage

 

Eye floaters

If you’ve ever seen spots, blots, specks or lines that appear to be floating in your field of vision, you’ve likely experienced eye floaters.

If eye floaters come on suddenly and especially if they are accompanied by flashes of light or a sudden change in your vision, try to be seen immediately. These could be symptoms of a retinal tear or retinal detachment, both of which are serious and vision-threatening. When it comes to retinal detachment you are at risk of losing your vision within 24 hours.

Are you seeing floaters without flashes or a sudden loss of vision? Don’t panic, but still see your eye doctor to rule out any retinal issues.

 

Double vision

Double vision, also called diplopia, can be triggered by a number of minor, but not life-threatening, events, including headache, dry eyes, or drinking too much alcohol. It can even be a symptom of cataracts.

But when double vision comes on suddenly, it could be indicative of more problematic health issues, such as a stroke or brain aneurysm. Often, if the double vision lasts for a long period or keeps recurring, it’s a sign that you should seek medical care as quickly as possible. Some of these health issues include:

  • Stroke
  • Brain or head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Kerataconus (an eye disease in which the cornea bulges into a cone-like shape)
  • Cranial nerve palsy

 

Eye pain

Most of the time, pain in your eye is caused by having something in your eye, such as dirt or debris. Other times, it could be a sign of an infection like conjunctivitis or sinusitis. But there are times when eye pain is a cause for major concern, and it’s often accompanied by other symptoms.

If you experience pain when you move your eyes, along with temporary loss of vision in one eye, it could be that you’ve developed optic neuritis. This condition, caused by swelling of the optic nerve, is sometimes an early symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). It can also indicate an infection or immune disease.

Closed-angle glaucoma causes your eye pressure to rise suddenly, which can cause pain, along with nausea and vomiting or headache. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any combination of these symptoms.

Routine eye exams are one of the best ways to protect your eye health and to understand your risks long before serious eye and vision issues can develop. Contact us to schedule your 2021 eye exam today.

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