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Sudden Blurred Vision and Dizziness

Sudden Blurred Vision and Dizziness

Blurry vision is a common issue that may arise when structures in the eye such as the retina, cornea, or optic nerve are negatively affected by a particular event or health issue. The slow development and progression of blurred vision is typically caused by chronic medical conditions. Conversely, the sudden onset of blurry vision is usually caused by a specific event that may range from a minor issue (e.g., eye strain) to more serious health problems such as glaucoma or a stroke.

Blurred Vision Associated with Head or Body Movements

Patients that develop an injury to their inner, or vestibular system, can develop blurred vision.  The vestibular system is critical in maintaining balance, but particularly of the eyes when the head moves.  A reflex, called the vestibulo-ocular reflex, or VOR, is designed to dampen head movement as fine as reading a book to as significant as being ona bouncing boat in a choppy sea.  When the VOR becomes dysfunction, a phenomenon occurs called oscillopsia. 

In layman’s terms, think of an oscillating fan and trying to see the fan blades moving.  This is the same phenomenon people experience with oscillopsia and a VOR weakness. 

Patients will often go to their optometrist or an ophthalmologist thinking that there is something wrong with their eyes.  The oscillopsia can make you feel dizziness symptoms like nausea and a sense of being off balance.  The actual origin comes from the dysfunction of the inner ears not being able to keep up with the movement of your leading to to strange sensation.

The grest thing about most forms of oscillopsia is that it is treatable by the physical therapists at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers.  The therapist can objectively measure the VOR dysfunction using a special test called a Dynamic Visual Acuity test or DVA.  With the information from the DVA, the therapist can prescribe specific exercises to help the brain recognize the oscillopsia and stabilize your vision.

Sudden blurry vision and headaches

Experiencing a headache along with blurred vision can be quite frightening, especially if it is the first time this has happened without warning. Blurry vision may develop in one or both of the eyes and for some people, vision becomes dim, cloudy, or even distorted by colors and shapes that make it difficult to see.

One particular condition that is associated with the sudden onset of a throbbing or pulsing headache along with blurred vision is a migraine. However, some people experience visual disturbances such as blind spots, flashes, wavy lines, or blurry vision before the headache starts. This warning sign is known as an aura. Migraines are also linked to an extreme sensitivity to light or sound, nausea, vomiting, or vertigo. Frequent migraines that affect vision and the ability to perform daily activities should be treated by a medical professional. 

Another potential cause of headache and sudden blurry vision is a specific type of high blood pressure known as pseudotumor cerebri or intracranial hypertension, a condition where cerebrospinal fluid accumulates around the brain and gradually increases pressure. The increase in pressure leads to headaches in the back of the head that tend to worsen at night or upon wakening. Lightheadedness, ringing in the ears, nausea, and vision problems may develop as well. Visual issues include blurred vision, flashes of light, or brief periods of blindness.

These disturbances usually get worse if the pressure continues to increase. If intracranial hypertension is not properly treated, vision problems or the loss of vision may become permanent.

A less serious issue that may also cause a headache and blurred vision is eye strain, which may develop after focusing on one object for extended periods without taking a break. Double vision that is the result of looking at an electronic device such as a cell phone, tablet, laptop, or television for a long time is often referred to as digital eye strain. Prolonged reading or driving, particularly at night, may cause eye strain as well. Performing certain activities in areas where the light is too bright or too dim can also lead to eye strain.

This condition typically develops when the eyes become tired and it is associated with headaches, blurry vision, irritated eyes that may be dry or red, and pain in the neck, shoulders, or back. Taking frequent breaks from looking at a particular object (e.g., smartphone, laptop) and ensuring proper lighting can help prevent the eyes from becoming tired. Keeping the eyes moist by using eye drops can help lessen the strain on the eyes as well. Overall, specific lifestyle changes can prevent the occurrence of blurry vision and headaches due to eye strain.

Blurred vision and headache and dizziness

There are a number of conditions that may cause blurred vision, a headache, and dizziness to occur simultaneously, these include:

  • Migraine
  • Inner ear inflammation (labyrinthitis)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)

However, an unexpected and often overlooked cause of blurry vision, headaches, dizziness, and even fatigue is dehydration. When an individual becomes severely dehydrated, blood pressure begins to drop, and this may lead to dizziness because the brain may not receive sufficient amounts of oxygen. The levels of important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium may also drop as a result of dehydration. Electrolytes help transfer electrical signals throughout the body and if the levels become too low signal transfer may become abnormal. This is why unexpected movements including involuntary muscle contractions often occur when a person is dehydrated.

The combination of low blood pressure and an electrolyte imbalance due to dehydration can cause a headache, blurry vision, muscle weakness, and fatigue that may signal an impending fainting spell. Severe dehydration that is not quickly treated can lead to life-threatening complications that range from heatstroke to shock, and even kidney failure. Therefore, if blurred vision, dizziness, and a headache develop all at once, one of the first strategies to try is drinking large amounts of water or electrolyte drinks.

Temporal arteritis, which refers to inflammation or damage to the arteries in the temples, is another condition that may cause symptoms such as:  

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness  
  • The sudden loss of vision in one eye
  • A throbbing headache in the temples
  • Tenderness in the temples and scalp

The specific cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be linked to an abnormal autoimmune response. Large doses of certain antibiotics and in some cases a severe infection, may also lead to temporal arteritis. As the cause is not well-understood, it is difficult to prevent this condition from developing. However, it can be treated after it is diagnosed to reduce the occurrence of serious complications such as permanent vision loss, jaw pain, a loss of appetite, joint pain and stiffness, and unintentional weight loss. Seeking treatment in a timely manner is one of the best ways to prevent these complications from developing.

A dangerous event that is associated with a dull headache, blurred vision, dizziness, and gradual fatigue that leads to sleepiness is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by burning fuel, propane, gas, or wood from:

  • Fireplaces
  • Car engines
  • Car mufflers
  • Space heaters
  • Charcoal grills
  • Portable generators

Breathing this gas for prolonged periods causes it to accumulate in the bloodstream and when this happens, blurry vision, weakness, fatigue, a mild headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and eventually loss of consciousness, will occur. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Dizziness, blurred vision, and a dull headache are among the first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and if this is suspected, move outdoors immediately and seek medical treatment.

In general, if the combination of blurred vision, dizziness, and a headache lasts for an extended period, disrupts regular activities, or leads to fainting, an appointment should be made with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of these symptoms.

Waking up with blurry vision in one eye

Blurred vision upon waking happens to a lot of people for various reasons. Most of the time, this issue resolves on its own after rubbing the eyes or blinking for a few seconds. Whether this occurs every morning or sporadically, it may raise questions regarding what type of issue may be causing this problem. One of the most common causes is dry eyes.

Tears serve the primary purpose of lubricating, protecting, and nourishing the eyes. Although tears are constantly produced, including during sleep, tears may dry out during the night and this can lead to hazy, blurry vision in one or both of the eyes in the morning. Individuals whose eyes do not completely close while they are asleep may also experience blurred vision upon waking due to dry eyes.

Furthermore, sleeping on one side of the face, particularly if excess pressure is placed on one eye way may disrupt the production of tears during the night. This may cause blurry vision in one eye upon waking. In most cases, blinking a few times or gently rubbing the eyes stimulates the production of tears that subsequently resolves blurriness by remoistening the cornea.

Allergies or infections that affect the eyes such as conjunctivitis, may cause double vision in one eye upon waking as well. Common allergens (e.g., dust, pollen, smoke) can induce immune responses that lead to various symptoms, especially when they come in contact with the eyes. When this happens, an individual may wake up with double vision in one or both eyes as well as watery, itchy, burning, red, or swollen eyes.

Over-the-counter allergy medication typically relieves eye-related symptoms, while some individuals may develop a more severe reaction that is known as allergic conjunctivitis. This is a form of eye inflammation that is the result of a strong allergic reaction to pollen, mold, dust, etc. Prescription strength anti-histamines (allergy medication) or eye drops may be more effective at targeting this type of issue and subsequently preventing blurred vision from occurring upon waking.

Another type of conjunctivitis that is associated with blurry vision in one or both eyes is more commonly known as pink eye. This is an infection that causes swelling on the outer portion of the eye, itchiness, excessive tears, a pinkish-red eye color, and mucus-like discharge that accumulates around the eye at night. It may be caused by bacteria or viruses, certain chemicals, or poorly controlled allergies. Bacterial conjunctivitis requires antibiotic treatment, which is typically in the form of eye drops.

Effective treatments for viral conjunctivitis are limited and anti-histamines typically clear up allergic conjunctivitis. Saline eye drops can also be used frequently throughout the day to flush the eyes and speed up the recovery process. This also helps target blurry vision and prevents the infection from spreading to the other eye. Conjunctivitis is quite contagious and can easily be spread to the healthy eye or even other individuals for up to two weeks. Therefore, it should be addressed in a timely manner.

If blurry vision does not resolve within a few minutes of waking up or it is accompanied by addition symptoms such as dizziness, a sharp headache, or weakness, it is important to speak with a doctor.

Sudden onset of one-sided blurred vision and a headache

An abrupt, stabbing headache that is accompanied by double or blurry vision in one eye may be signs of a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is also known as a mini-stroke. The signs of a stroke and mini-stroke are the same, but the symptoms related to a mini-stroke have a shorter duration. If a stoke affects regions of the brain that regulate eyesight, blurred vision or the loss of vision may develop in one eye. Additional signs of a stroke or mini-stroke include:

  • Sudden confusion or memory loss
  • Extreme dizziness, falling, or fainting
  • Difficulty speaking clearly or the inability to speak
  • Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body

Anyone who suscepts a stroke should seek immediate medical attention as it may cause life-threatening complications.

There have also been a number of reports regarding blurry vision that suddenly developed in the left eye. This type of issue may be the result of retinal detachment that is caused by underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases or ocular malignancies (e.g., sarcoidosis, systemic lupus, intraocular lymphoma). However, such conditions may progress for an extended period of time before retinal detachment occurs. This means that by the time blurred vision develops in the left eye, the health problem that is causing it may have reached a serious stage that requires immediate treatment.

Overall, the sudden onset of blurry vision that is accompanied by other startling symptoms such as a severe, stabbing headache, extreme lightheadedness or fatigue, or fainting should be addressed by a medical professional in a timely manner. This will give a doctor an opportunity to diagnose and treat the underlying issue, which is of particular importance for potentially serious or life-threatening issues (e.g., retinal detachment, stroke, ocular cancer).

The sudden onset of blurry vision and dizziness may be quite scary, but if the cause is addressed quickly, major complications may be avoided. This is especially the case if these symptoms are due to minor issues such as eye strain or mild dehydration. If blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, or additional symptoms persist, seek the advice of a medical professional.  

FYZICAL offers free assessments to diagnose dizziness and to determine each individual’s falling risk. The physical therapists at FYZICAL will then create a recovery program tailored to each patient’s specific condition and needs.

FYZICAL offers a wide variety of physical therapy services by qualified providers across the U.S. To find a FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Center near you, visit our website at Our highly skilled therapy providers are 100% focused on your optimal health so you can Love Your Life®!

To learn more about how FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers can help you, download our free e-book.