Symptom: Visual Disturbance

    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 it’s 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 brain—if 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 “ghost image” when the damaged eye is closed.


    Partial blindness means you are able to see light as well as some degree of what’s 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 their sight.


    Individuals who are colorblind are unable to see colors. Most people with poor color vision are only partially colorblind—they 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

    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 nerves
  • cataracts
  • clouding of your eye’s lens
  • corneal scarring or infections
  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • injury or irregularity on your eye’s lens and cornea
  • muscle weakness
  • nerve conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • 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 eyes
  • advancing age
  • cataracts
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • hereditary condition
  • macular degeneration
  • optic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic nerve
  • stroke
  • tumors
  • Colorblindness

    Common causes for poor vision color or colorblindness include:

  • advancing age
  • certain medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and psychological problems
  • diabetes
  • exposure to certain chemicals, such as fertilizers
  • glaucoma
  • inheriting the condition (Colorblindness is more common in men. The most common form of colorblindness is red-green color deficiency.)
  • macular degeneration
  • optic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic nerve
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • sickle cell anemia
  • Blurred Vision

    Causes of blurred vision can include one or more of the following:

  • bacterial infection, such as trachoma
  • cataract
  • corneal abrasion or infection
  • glaucoma
  • inadequate prescription glasses or contact lens
  • macular degeneration
  • migraine headache
  • optic nerve problem
  • trauma or injury to the eye
  • tumor
  • Halo

    Halo can be caused by any of the following:

  • cataract
  • damage or disease that affects your eye’s cornea
  • glaucoma
  • migraine
  • ocular migraine
  • Pain

    Causes of pain related to vision include:

  • bacterial infection
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • glaucoma
  • injury or inflammation in the eyelids
  • migraine headache
  • optic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic nerve
  • problems with contact lens
  • sinus headache or infection
  • stye (an inflamed oil gland that develops on your eyelids)
  • 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 tumor
  • cataracts
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • macular degeneration
  • migraines
  • 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 naturally—blurry 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.


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