• Faulty vision

Vision Problems: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

  • 7 Minutes reading time
  • Created on 30 January 2024

When taking care of your eye health, there are various types of vision problems you need to be aware of. Vision problems occur when pathological changes in visual perception happen. Such changes could cause flashes of light, flickering, blurring of vision, and more. In this article, we’ll outline several types of vision problems, their causes, and how they are treated.

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What is a Vision Impairment

Visual impairment describes a loss of vision that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision impairment, but disease and congenital effects are also contributors. Vision problems can begin gradually and become progressively worse over time, making it important to highlight any vision problems to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

There are various kinds of conditions that cause vision impairment. For example, ametropia is a refractive condition resulting in vision impairment. There are three types of ametropia:

  • Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Hyperopia (farsightedness)
  • Presbyopia

Myopia and hyperopia can also occur in combination with astigmatism. One way to repair ametropia is through a laser eye treatment. Presbyopia, on the other hand, can be corrected with a Refractive Lens Exchange (RLA), a treatment where an artificial lens is implanted. Visual aids such as glasses and contact lenses can also be worn to help correct many (but not all) vision problems.

Symptoms of Vision Problems

There are a variety of symptoms that could be linked to certain vision problems - they may also differ in severity. Here are some symptoms that could indicate issues with vision:

There are a variety of symptoms that could be linked to certain vision problems - they may also differ in severity. Here are some symptoms that could indicate issues with vision:

  • Blurred vision: Blurred vision is considered one of the most common eye problems around. It could be a sign of strained eyes or ametropia, alternatively, it could also be a sign of something more serious such as cataracts or retinal detachment. If you see any signs of blurred vision, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.

  • Double vision: Also known as diplopia, double vision is when you see one object as two. Sometimes, double vision can be temporary or caused by alcohol consumption. Disturbances of cranial nerves or astigmatism can also cause you to see double. Double vision is also often a symptom of heterophoria, a condition that impacts the alignment of the eyes.

  • Flickering or flashes of light: Eye flickering usually occurs at the edge of your field of vision. This will often appear as small, glowing dots jumping back and forth in front of the eyes. Persistent flickering could actually be a sign of a migraine and, in more severe cases, could be an indication of retinal detachment.

  • Visual field loss: This occurs when your field of vision becomes limited or narrowed. The edge of your vision may become impaired, and this is known as tunnel vision. Visual field loss may also occur in the middle of your eye and appear as black or grey spots. Such symptoms could be caused by injury or cataracts, as well as something more severe like glaucoma.

  • Mouches volantes: Also known as vitreous floaters or “flying flies”, a symptom of this condition often includes a patient seeing black spots floating around the eye. Often caused by the production of vitreous fluid, such symptoms can be caused by ageing. People who experience severe myopia may be subject to mouches volantes’ symptoms.

  • Colour blindness: Colour blindness is when you are unable to perceive colours correctly. Many people who suffer from colour blindness see colours incorrectly. Some people may be able to see some colours but not all, which is known as having colour vision deficiency. Colour blindness is usually congenital but can be caused by conditions like diabetes or multiple sclerosis.

  • Night blindness: Night blindness is caused when cells in the retina are not functioning properly, which impacts your ability to see at night. It can be congenital or even caused by a vitamin A deficiency.

  • Blindness: Total or near-total sight loss is considered blindness. Blindness can be age-related, caused by injury, or even brought on by other vision problems like macular degeneration, cataracts, or diabetes.

Which Types of Vision Problems Are Dangerous?

In general, you should consult a doctor if you have any vision problems. A retinal tear (or detachment) will need to be treated immediately to prevent any long-term damage on sight. If you’ve also been subject to a serious injury to the eye, seek assistance immediately.

If you have any slight change in your vision, it’s best to visit a healthcare professional and conduct the relevant tests.

Some vision problems are the result of other diseases, and aren’t always caused by the eye itself:

  • Migraine: Flashes of light or colours that start in the middle of the visual field and spread out can be caused by an oncoming migraine.
  • Low sugar: Your vision can become impaired if your blood sugar level is low.
  • Multiple sclerosis: MS is a condition that affects the brain and spinal cord - it can also cause vision problems, such as blurred vision.
  • Diabetes: A complication of diabetes is retina detachment, which can cause blindness or severe retina damage.
  • Stroke: A stroke can cause double or blurred vision.
  • Cervical spondylosis: Blurred vision is a symptom that could arise from severe neck and back pain or tension.

Other Causes of Vision Problems

Not all vision problems are caused by an issue of the eye or a certain disease - there can be other reasons you’re having problems with your vision.

  • Excessive tiredness: Blurry or unclear vision can be a result of fatigue.
  • Stress: Intense stress can cause tension and impact the ability to see clearly. High levels of cortisol can slow blood circulation and impact the eyes. If your visual impairment is due to stress, it may help to darken the room for a few minutes and give your eyes a break. Regular eye exercises can also help counteract the effects of stress.
  • Alcohol consumption: Alcohol can cause visual impairment, such as tunnel vision, double vision, or blurriness. Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to vitamin deficiency and this can have a long-term impact on vision.
  • Medication: Some medications may have side effects that impact the eye and cause vision problems like blurred vision. In rare cases, motor function related to vision can also be impaired.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vision Problems

An ophthalmologist can make a diagnosis of a visual impairment by conducting a thorough assessment. Some procedures that may be available include:

  • Eye test: An ophthalmologist can use an eye test to determine possible ametropia. Typically, this involves looking at a board of numbers and letters from a variety of distances and sizes to determine what the patient is able to see.
  • Slit lamp microscope: The eyes are examined with specific illumination and magnification, which shows any changes to the cornea.
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  • Ophthalmoscopy: During this examination, drops that dilate the pupils are placed in the eye and an ophthalmologist then uses a microscope to examine the back of the eye. Retinal diseases or eye tumours can be detected through this method.
  • Intraocular pressure measurement: Before an intraocular pressure measurement, the eyes are anaesthetised with drops. A stamp is then pressed onto the cornea, which measures the pressure inside the eye. This measurement is carried out if glaucoma is suspected.
  • Blood test: If there is suspicion of an autoimmune disease or an inflammatory disease, a blood test can be conducted.
  • Neurological examination: If, for example, MS is suspected, the retina nerve tracts must be measured. Electrodes are attached to the scalp and the patient sits at a certain distance from a screen that shows a checkerboard pattern. Both eyes are individually taped and examined separately.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound scan can be used to diagnose retinal detachment, eye tumours, or inflammation of the optic nerve. With the eyes closed, the ultrasound gel is applied to the eyelids.
  • Angiography: Here the patient is first injected with a contrast agent and then has an X-ray. The dye reaches the vessels of the eye via the bloodstream which will be visible on the x-ray.
  • MRI or CT scan: If a tumour or a cerebral haemorrhage is detected, an imaging procedure of the head is necessary.

Treatments for vision problems vary depending on the cause and symptoms. However, they can usually be managed if they are recognised and treated swiftly. Always consult a medical professional or specialist when it comes to changes in your vision or related health.

Besides the use of visual aids, you can get certain vision problems corrected with laser eye treatment or lens implantation.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Do I Need to See a Doctor If I Have Vision Problems?

In general, you should always seek medical advice if you’re having issues with vision. If your visual acuity suddenly deteriorates (for example, you begin to see lots of black dots or have severe eye pain)you should go to an emergency clinic immediately. The earlier a vision disorder is detected, the sooner it can be treated. Since visual impairment is a very general term for a variety of symptoms, the underlying cause can be harmless.

Can I Prevent Vision Problems?

It is difficult to prevent vision problems caused by illness or age. However, there are a few things you can do to maintain your eye health. Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet that provides you with essential vitamins. Avoid alcohol and smoking, as both can have negative effects on your eyesight. Wear sunglasses with sufficient UV protection and, as you get older, have an annual check-up with an ophthalmologist.

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