Blurred vision and headaches
Blurry vision can be a frustrating, and sometimes scary, thing to experience. Even worse is when a throbbing headache accompanies your blurry vision.
While a headache may feel like the result of uncorrected blurry vision, it's very possible that, together, your headache and blurred vision could be symptoms of a more worrisome underlying condition.
Why you may have a headache and blurry vision
Headache and blurry vision can be caused by problems with the eyes, brain, or other internal and external factors. The underlying condition causing blurry vision and headache can be a minor issue, such as low blood sugar, or a more severe condition, such as stroke or brain trauma.
Eye-related causes for blurry vision and headache
The following conditions listed can cause a headache and blurry vision. Fortunately, regular eye exams can correct, treat or help manage the condition, which will minimize or resolve associated symptoms.
Hyperopia — Clear distance vision, but blurry vision at close range. Eye strain and squinting when performing close-up tasks are also symptoms.
Astigmatism — Blurry vision at multiple distances. Squinting, distorted vision, double vision and poor night vision may also occur.
Presbyopia — Age-related vision change that worsens near vision. Typically affects people over age 40 and creates the need to move objects farther away from you in order to see them clearly.
Glaucoma — Abnormally high pressure within the eye. Other symptoms include eye pain and redness, cloudy eyes, blind spots in vision and nausea/vomiting.
Cataracts — Clouding of the eye’s lens. Symptoms include light sensitivity, poor vision in low-light conditions (nighttime), double vision and seeing halos around bright lights.
Strabismus — Inability for both eyes to maintain proper alignment. Primary symptom is one eye looking inward, outward, upward or downward, while the other eye focuses straight ahead.
Nystagmus — Involuntary, rhythmic eye movements. Balance problems, dizziness, light sensitivity and holding the head in unusual positions also occur.
Amblyopia — Common condition in children in which one eye fails to achieve normal visual acuity. Symptoms include repeated eye closing or squinting, poor depth perception and misaligned eyes.
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Neurological causes for blurry vision and headache
Conditions that affect the brain, nerves or spinal cord can also lead to blurry vision and headaches. It’s important to seek medical attention quickly after symptoms begin, as some of these conditions can be life-threatening.
Pseudotumor cerebri — Occurs when fluid collects in the brain. Symptoms also include ringing in ears, dizziness, depression, nausea and vomiting.
Stroke — In addition to blurred vision and sudden extreme headache, symptoms include confusion, numbness or weakness in half of the body/face, trouble speaking and lack of coordination.
Brain trauma — Traumatic brain injury, such as a concussion, presents symptoms like confusion, dizziness, sleepiness, ringing in the ears, confusion, nausea/vomiting, loss of consciousness and trouble with memory or concentration.
Temporal arteritis — Occurs when blood vessels near your temples become inflamed. Common symptoms include a throbbing, persistent headache on both sides of your head, jaw pain, fever, muscle aches, and scalp or temple sensitivity.
Other potential causes of blurry vision and headache
Blurred vision and headaches can develop as a result of other internal or external factors. Though not always a medical emergency, it’s recommended that you see a doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following conditions:
Low blood sugar — Occurs most often in diabetics. Symptoms include shakiness, irritability, fatigue, anxiety and hunger.
High blood pressure — Can develop without symptoms over a span of years. Nose bleeds and shortness of breath are also common.
Low blood pressure — Can be caused by dehydration and certain medications. Symptoms include dizziness, fainting and, in severe cases, shock.
Carbon monoxide poisoning — Medical emergency that results from too much carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. Symptoms include weakness, fatigue, confusion, nausea and vomiting.
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When to see a doctor for blurry vision and headache
If you experience one or more of the following, you need to call 911 or find the nearest emergency room immediately:
You or someone else suffers a serious head injury.
Facial numbness, tingling or paralysis.
Trouble standing or walking.
Drooping of the eye or lips.
Fever higher than 102 degrees F (39 C).
The sooner medical attention is sought, the more quickly treatment can be administered and further issues can be avoided.
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Page published in January 2021
Page updated in January 2022