Possible Symptoms for Vision Loss
Vision loss can sometimes occur without warning, but in most cases, it develops gradually. As your vision deteriorates, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Eye strain
- Difficulty focusing your eyes
- Confusion or disorientation
Sudden or unexplained vision loss is a medical emergency. If you experience sudden changes in your vision, seek medical care right away. Prompt treatment can sometimes restore your vision, but delaying medical care may result in permanent vision loss.
Keep in mind that vision changes are a common symptom of a stroke. If vision changes are accompanied by confusion, slurred speech, facial drooping, or balance problems, call 911 immediately.
Top 9 Vision Loss Causes
Aging often causes a gradual loss of vision. You may notice that you need stronger reading glasses as time goes on and that seeing items close-up may become a challenge. However, in most cases, these aging-related vision changes are not a cause for concern. Still, it's important to see a doctor to rule out a serious medical condition.
2. Blood clots
Blood clots can cut off blood flow to the brain or optic nerve. In some cases, this may cause sudden vision loss. Blood clots can be treated, but speed is essential. If you suspect a blood clot, go to the hospital right away.
People with migraine headaches often report vision changes before or during a migraine. These vision changes can include blind spots, flashing lights, or blurry vision. Symptoms generally disappear once your migraine goes away. If you're having trouble managing your migraines, medication may help.
4. Retinal vasospasm
Retinal vasospasm is caused by tightening blood vessels in the retina. These spasms can cut off blood flow, causing temporary vision loss. Medical treatment often improves blood flow to the retina and restores your vision.
Glaucoma develops when fluid builds up inside your eye. Over time, backed-up fluid can increase pressure within the eye and damage your optic nerve. Early diagnosis is essential for this condition, as glaucoma may not cause any symptoms until irreversible damage has already occurred. Getting regular eye exams can help your doctor diagnose glaucoma in its early stages.
Seizures can sometimes cause vision changes or temporary vision loss. If you have a seizure disorder, tell your doctor if you experience any changes to your vision. Medication may help you manage your seizures and limit these side effects.
Cataracts occur when the lens inside your eye becomes clouded. This clouding is often a normal part of aging. Up to 70% of people in the United States may develop cataracts by age 80. Cataracts can dramatically impair your vision, but surgery can help restore it.
8. Diabetic retinopathy
Many people with diabetes develop problems with their vision. If your blood sugar is not well controlled, you may be at high risk for vision complications. Diabetic retinopathy is progressive: over time, it may cause complete blindness. However, treatment can slow the disease's progression and protect your vision.
9. Macular degeneration
Macular degeneration develops when the central part of the retina starts to deteriorate. The retina senses light and plays a key role in helping you see. If your retina deteriorates, you may experience severe and irreversible vision loss. There is no cure for macular degeneration, but treatment can help slow its progression.
7 Ways to Prevent Vision Loss
1. Get regular eye exams
Regular eye exams are vital for protecting your vision. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing permanent vision loss.
2. Report vision changes to your doctor
Minor vision changes may suggest that you have a serious underlying condition. Don't ignore vision changes, especially if they are sudden or unexplained.
3. Don't smoke
Smoking is linked to many vision problems, including macular degeneration and cataracts. If you're a smoker, quitting can help protect your vision.
4. Manage your blood pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of vision loss and eye damage. Medication and lifestyle changes can help bring your blood pressure under control.
5. Manage your blood sugar
Having diabetes significantly increases your risk of vision problems. Regular screenings can help check your blood sugar and diagnose diabetes early. If you have diabetes, treatment can help you manage your blood sugar.
6. Wear sunglasses
Sunglasses help protect your eyes against harmful UV rays. Exposure to UV rays is sometimes responsible for cataracts or cancerous growths. Choose sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UBA rays.
7. Use protective gear
Severe eye injuries may cause permanent vision loss or even complete blindness. Wearing protective gear helps prevent eye injuries and protect your sight.
Possible Vision Loss Treatment Options
Treatment options may depend on which condition is causing your vision loss. Your eye doctor may recommend one or more of the following treatments:
Prescription medications can treat many medical conditions linked to vision loss. Medication is particularly essential for treating high blood pressure and diabetes. Dietary supplements may also provide your eyes with the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
If you have severely impaired vision, surgery may help. Surgery can replace clouded lenses in your eye, remove scar tissue, or drain away excess fluid. Laser surgery is often an excellent option for people with vision problems.
3. Corrective lenses and vision aids
Corrective lenses can give your vision a boost and help you keep up with your daily activities. Your doctor may suggest prescription glasses, contact lenses, or other vision aids.
4. Occupational therapy
If your vision loss is permanent, your doctor may recommend occupational therapy. This type of treatment focuses on learning to adapt to your condition.
Your occupational therapist may suggest helpful workarounds for your home or workplace. Occupational therapists can also help you learn to use a cane or other tools designed for people with vision impairment.
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Vision Loss Treatment
- When did your vision loss begin?
- What other symptoms are you experiencing?
- When was your last eye exam?
- Are you a current or past smoker?
- Have you recently injured your eyes or suffered a blow to the head?
- Does anyone else in your family have vision loss?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure?
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- American Academy of Family Physicians. Vision loss. https://familydoctor.org/condition/vision-loss/
- WebMD. Temporary blindness adn short-term vision loss. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/temporary-blindness-short-term-vision-loss#1
- Merck Manual. Vission loss, sudden. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/symptoms-of-eye-disorders/vision-loss,-sudden
- WebMD. The warning signs of stroke. https://www.webmd.com/stroke/guide/signs-of-stroke
- WebMD. Glaucoma. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/glaucoma-eyes#1
- National Eye Institute. Cataracts. https://nei.nih.gov/eyedata/cataract
- Mayo Clinic. Diabetic retinopathy. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371617
- WebMD. Age-related macular degeneration overview. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/age-related-macular-degeneration-overview#1
- American Academy of Opthamology. Top 10 tips to save your vision. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/top-10-tips-to-save-your-vision-2