What Are Visual Disturbances?
Visual disturbances interfere with normal sight. The various types of
visual disturbances may be caused by several conditions and disorders. Some are
temporary and can be relieved with treatment. However, some can be permanent.
Types of Visual Disturbances
The most common visual disturbances include double vision (diplopia),
partial or total blindness, colorblindness, blurred vision, halo, and pain.
Diplopia is also called double vision. If you are seeing two objects
when you should be seeing one, you are experiencing diplopia. This visual
disturbance can be a symptom of a serious health problem, so itâs important you
see your doctor when symptoms begin.
Two types of diplopia exist: monocular and binocular.
Double vision that affects one eye is called monocular double vision. It
can be the result of a physical change to the lens over your eye, the cornea,
or the retinal surface.
Double vision in both eyes may be the result of poorly aligned eyes or
nerve damage that prevents your brain from properly layering the images your
eyes are seeing.
Double vision can also be a result of miscommunication in your brainâif
your brain cannot overlay the two images your eyes are seeing, you may
experience double vision. Covering the affected eye will not solve the problem,
however. You are still likely to see a âghost imageâ when the damaged eye is
Partial blindness means you are able to see light as well as some
degree of whatâs around you. Total blindness refers to a condition where you
can no longer see light. People with vision worse than 20/200 are considered
legally blind. Their vision may be corrected with glasses, surgery, or contact
lenses. In many cases, people with partial or complete blindness cannot restore
Individuals who are colorblind are unable to see colors. Most people
with poor color vision are only partially colorblindâthey lack the ability to
differentiate between specific shades of certain colors. Total colorblindness
is rare. People who are completely colorblind see only shades of gray.
Blurred vision may be the result of changing eyesight or a symptom of
another condition. Eyes that no longer align properly cannot receive and read
visual messages from your eyes. Corrective lenses or contacts can fix most
cases of blurry vision, but vision disturbances caused by another condition may
require additional treatment.
Halos appear as circles of light around objects.
Pain or discomfort in your eye is different from condition to
condition. It may feel like a scratching sensation when you open and shut your
eyelid. Alternately, it may be a continuous throbbing in your eye that is not
relieved by closing your eye.
What Causes Visual Disturbances?
Visual disturbances can be caused by several conditions. The most
common are listed here.
Double Vision (Diplopia)
Causes of double vision include:
an autoimmune disorder, like myasthenia gravis,
which prevents the muscles inside your eyes from being activated by your nervescataractsclouding of your eyeâs lenscorneal scarring or infectionsdiabeteshypertensioninjury or irregularity on your eyeâs lens and
corneamuscle weaknessnerve conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and
Sudden onset of diplopia may be caused by a stroke, migraine headache, aneurysm,
or a brain tumor.
Partial or Total Blindness
Blindness has many causes. The most common include:
accidents or trauma to the eyesadvancing agecataractsdiabetesglaucomahereditary conditionmacular degenerationoptic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic
Common causes for poor vision color or colorblindness include:
advancing agecertain medications, such as those used to treat
high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and psychological problemsdiabetesexposure to certain chemicals, such as
fertilizersglaucomainheriting the condition (Colorblindness is more
common in men. The most common form of colorblindness is red-green color
deficiency.)macular degenerationoptic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic
nerveParkinsonâs diseasesickle cell anemia
Causes of blurred vision can include one or more of the following:
bacterial infection, such as trachomacataractcorneal abrasion or infectionglaucomainadequate prescription glasses or contact lensmacular degenerationmigraine headacheoptic nerve problemtrauma or injury to the eyetumor
Halo can be caused by any of the following:
cataractdamage or disease that affects your eyeâs corneaglaucomamigraineocular migraine
Causes of pain related to vision include:
bacterial infectionconjunctivitis (pink eye)glaucomainjury or inflammation in the eyelidsmigraine headacheoptic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic
nerveproblems with contact lenssinus headache or infectionstye (an inflamed oil gland that develops on
Who Is at Risk for Visual Disturbances?
Anyone can experience a visual disturbance at any time, but several
conditions put you at an increased risk for one or more of the most common visual
disturbances. These conditions include:
brain tumorcataractsdiabetesglaucomamacular degenerationmigraines
Diagnosing Visual Disturbances
If any of the visual disturbances begins suddenly and unexpectedly, see
a doctor as soon as possible. In some cases, the visual disturbance may be the
result of a minor problem, but many serious conditions, such as aneurysm,
glaucoma, and brain tumors first cause vision problems.
Your doctor will likely perform several diagnostic tests to determine the
cause of your visual disturbance. These tests might include a physical exam,
eye exam, and blood tests. Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
or a computed tomography (CT) scan may also be used to confirm a problem or
further investigate a suspected condition.
Treating Visual Disturbances
The first step in treating a visual disturbance is figuring out the
underlying problem that is causing it. Once you and your doctor have discovered
the problem, you can develop a plan for treatment. In some cases, the
disturbance will go away naturallyâblurry vision caused by a headache will
usually resolve when the headache recedes. However, your doctor may wish to
prescribe medicine to prevent future headaches or medicine you can take when a
headache begins causing visual complications.
There are several common treatments for visual disturbances. Medication
can treat underlying conditions so they no longer cause symptoms. Dietary
changes can prevent visual disturbances in people with uncontrolled diabetes. Glasses,
contact lenses, or magnifying devices may be able to correct vision
disturbances that cannot be corrected with another treatment. If necessary, surgery
can help relieve or repair damaged nerves and muscles.