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Why do I have cloudy vision?

cloudy image of a woman by the pool

What is cloudy vision?

Cloudy vision, also called clouded vision, is eyesight that is foggy or hazy. Cloudy vision can range from a mild fog to a dense layer that covers your entire view. Cloudy vision is similar to blurry vision, but it is not the same. Instead, blurry vision is eyesight that looks "soft" or out of focus.

Some conditions can cause cloudy vision and blurry vision at the same time. Clouded vision that comes on suddenly can be a sign of a serious medical issue. If you experience this, seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Causes of cloudy vision

Cloudy vision doesn't happen on its own; it's a symptom of another condition.

Common causes of cloudy vision include:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – Damage to the eye's macula that leads to a gradual loss of the vision in the center of your view. Some cases of macular degeneration can cause hazy vision and faded colors.

  • Diabetic retinopathy – Damage to the eye's retina caused by either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Vision can appear cloudy when retinal tissue starts to swell. Retinopathy tends to happen more often when the underlying diabetes isn't being managed properly.

  • Fuchs' dystrophy – A condition that causes cells in the cornea to degenerate over time. Vision can start to look foggy when the cornea clouds or swells.

  • Eye floaters – Small spots and squiggly lines that float across your vision. Floaters don't cause widespread clouded vision in the same way as many other conditions, but large floaters can themselves have a cloudy or hazy appearance.

  • Contact lenses – Wearing contacts can lead to cloudy vision due to dry spots, cracks and tears in the lenses. Contacts can also lead to corneal edema (swelling) due to poor oxygen supply to the cornea. This can be a result of an accumulation of material under the lens, especially with scleral lenses.

While these are the more common causes of cloudy vision, they aren't the only ones that can make your vision look hazy or foggy. Many of these problems can lead to vision loss or other health issues if left untreated.

If you're living with undiagnosed cloudy vision, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor.

Cloudy vision in one eye

Cloudy vision doesn't always appear in both eyes; some people only notice it on one side.

Like other forms of hazy vision, a cataract is a common cause of cloudy vision in one eye. They usually develop in both eyes, but a cataract in one eye can take a little longer to develop.

When this happens, you may notice clouding in one eye, but not the other.

Macular degeneration sometimes occurs in only one eye. In this case, hazy vision and other early symptoms may be harder to notice since the unaffected eye compensates for the problem.

While clouded vision caused by these conditions and others can take a long time to develop, it's very important to start a treatment or management plan as soon as possible to limit or prevent any further damage.

If you notice cloudy vision in one eye that develops quickly, it may be a sign of a medical emergency — seek medical attention as soon as possible.

How cloudy vision is treated

Since cloudy vision is a symptom of another problem, an eye doctor will need to diagnose the underlying cause before they can discuss treatment and/or management options with you.

For patients who have cataracts, surgery is currently the only way to reduce clouded vision. Prescription glasses can help blurry vision in cataracts' earlier stages, but they won't reduce the clouded, milky vision that develops over time.

People with Fuchs' dystrophy may require individualized treatment depending on which symptoms are present, while patients with macular degeneration can often benefit from a detailed management plan to help slow the disease's progression.

Careful blood glucose monitoring and/or lifestyle changes may be able to help patients with diabetes to limit the effects of diabetic retinopathy.

When to see an eye doctor

If you start to notice cloudy vision — in one eye or both — don't try to self-diagnose your condition.

Eye doctors have expertise and special instruments that give them close-up, painless views of the inside and outside of your eyes. If the doctor suspects a certain problem, they may refer you to an ophthalmologist who specializes in the diagnosis, management and treatment of that condition.

When the following symptoms happen alongside cloudy vision, they may point to an urgent problem:

  • Flashes of light

  • An increase in eye floaters

  • A dark "curtain" that covers any part of your vision

  • Any level of vision loss in either eye, or both eyes

  • Eye pain

  • Sensitivity to light

If your cloudy vision comes on quickly or you experience any of these symptoms, get medical help right away.

Cataracts. National Eye Institute. August 2019.

Macular degeneration. Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Wisconsin. Accessed September 2021.

Diabetic retinopathy. American Optometric Association. Accessed September 2021.

Eye floaters: What are they and should you be concerned? Henry Ford Health System. June 2019.

Sudden changes in vision. Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan. August 2020.

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