Vision Loss or Change

Is this your symptom?

  • Blindness (complete loss of vision)
  • Blurry eyesight (decreased vision)
  • Double vision (seeing double)
  • Seeing floaters (small drifting spots) or flashing lights

Some Basics...

  • Sudden loss of vision is almost always serious. A doctor's exam is needed right away.
  • New blurry eyesight, floaters, or double vision can also be serious.


Here are some causes of sudden loss of vision in one eye and clues as to the possible cause.

  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma: blurred vision in one eye, eye pain (often severe), nausea, halos around lights.
  • Central retinal artery occlusion: complete or partial vision loss in one eye, painless.
  • Central retinal vein occlusion: complete or partial vision loss in one eye, painless.
  • Optic neuritis: blurred vision, pain with eye movement, usually just one eye.
  • Retinal detachment: a shower of floaters, flashing lights, blurry eyesight, partial visual field loss (like "curtain coming down").
  • Vitreous hemorrhage: painless, may see "red", occurs in patients with diabetes.

Gradual loss of vision can occur with aging. Here are some causes of loss of vision in both eyes.

  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Glaucoma (open-angle)

When to Call for Vision Loss or Change

Call 911 Now

  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Blurry eyesight that started suddenly
  • Double vision
  • Seeing flashes of light
  • Many floaters (many small specks seem to float across the eye)
  • Eye pain or discomfort is more than mild
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Single floater (small speck seems to float across the eye)
  • Jaw pain occurs while eating and over 50 years old
  • Headache and over 50 years old
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Blurry eyesight or vision change started slowly (weeks, months)
  • Diabetes and last eye exam was more than 12 months ago
  • Age over 65 and last eye exam was more than 12 months ago
  • You have to hold book very close to read
  • You have to close (or cover) one eye to read
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Brief blurry eyesight caused by eye strain

Care Advice for Eye Strain (Prolonged Close Work)

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Eye strain occurs when the eyes become tired from over-use.
    • It can be caused by driving, reading, or using a computer for a long period.
    • The eyes may feel dry, tired, or heavy. They may itch, burn, or water. Other symptoms are blurry vision and headache.
    • This is a common eye problem that usually goes away with resting the eyes.
  2. Rest the Eyes:
    • Lie down with your eyes closed for 10-20 minutes.
    • Or, sit quietly in a dark room for 10-20 minutes.
  3. For Dry Eyes:
    • You can use over-the-counter artificial tears if you have dry eyes.
    • Put 1 to 2 drops into each eye whenever they feel dry.
  4. Expected Course: It should get better after resting.
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Last Reviewed: 3/22/2018 1:00:27 AM
Last Updated: 7/25/2017 1:11:59 AM

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