Can Stress Cause Vision Problems or Blindness?

Can Stress Cause Vision Problems or Blindness?
06.02.2024

Stress and anxiety can impair many aspects of your health, including your vision. You may experience vision loss or other vision symptoms, like blurriness, light sensitivity, or loss of visual acuity.

Chronic stress may speed up the development of eye diseases like macular degeneration or glaucoma. In the short term, stress and behaviors related to stress may contribute to dry eyes.

Stress can also lead to psychogenic blindness. This is blindness with a psychological cause and no known structural problem.

Read on to learn more about the connection between stress and vision problems.

Can stress and anxiety cause vision problems?

The idea that stress may lead to vision loss isn’t new. It’s believed to date back at least 3,000 years.

Science has come a long way since then, but modern research also supports the idea that stress may contribute to vision loss.

Can stress cause blurry vision?

Stress can potentially contribute to the development of blurry vision in several ways, such as:

  • Drying out your eyes: In a 2022 review of studies, researchers found that dry eye disease was associated with depression and anxiety. Blurry vision is a potential symptom of dry eyes.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications used to treat anxiety or stress, such as tricyclic antidepressants, can lead to symptoms like pupil dilation and blurry vision.
  • Lead to retinal disease: Research suggests that perceived stress is a risk factor for central serous chorioretinopathy (CSCR). CSCR results in fluid collection in the macula (the central part of the retina), which can cause blurry vision.
  • Glaucoma: In a 2021 study, researchers found evidence that anxiety and depression contributed to the progression of glaucoma. Blurry vision is often one of the first symptoms of glaucoma.
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Can stress cause blindness?

Blindness is loss of vision ranging from mild to complete absence of sight.

Temporary vision loss can occur without any indication of damage to the structures of your eye. When this happens, it’s called psychogenic blindness or conversion disorder. It often occurs after a traumatic event.

Other ways stress affects vision

When you’re stressed, your body produces hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which cause changes to your body, including:

  • increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • increased breakdown of fat and carbohydrates
  • reduced intestinal activity

Over time, these hormones might damage your eye by reducing blood flow to your retina and optic nerve and increasing pressure in your eye.

These changes can contribute to the development of many eye diseases that cause symptoms such as:

  • light sensitivity
  • tunnel vision
  • eyestrain
  • double vision
  • eye pain
  • reduced visual acuity

How to treat stress-related vision problems

Treating stress-related vision problems largely centers around reducing stress. Some ways you may be able to reduce and manage stress in your life include:

  • getting regular exercise
  • eating a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods
  • adding relaxing activities into your daily routine, such as:
    • yoga
    • walks in nature
    • deep breathing exercises
  • prioritizing getting enough sleep
  • reducing your caffeine intake
  • talking with a therapist

When to get medical help

Seek prompt medical attention from an eye doctor anytime you notice changes to your vision, such as:

  • sudden loss of vision
  • blurry vision
  • trouble reading

You may also want to visit a mental health professional if you don’t feel like you can manage your stress or it’s disrupting your life.

Frequently asked questions about stress and vision

Here are some frequently asked questions people have about stress and vision.

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Can stress cause vision problems in one eye?

Stress may potentially contribute to conditions that affect blood flow to the eye, leading to conditions that can impair vision in one eye.

Can stress cause optic nerve swelling?

Stress may potentially cause optic nerve swelling due to hormones that can increase intracranial pressure, which is pressure within the brain.

What is psychogenic blindness?

“Psychogenic” means a condition has a psychological cause instead of a physical one. Another name for psychogenic blindness is conversion disorder.

People with conversation disorder often have vision loss with no evidence of physical eye damage.

Can you go blind from emotional trauma?

Psychological trauma can lead to blindness, but it doesn’t usually cause complete blindness. You may have reduced visual function. It doesn’t mean you can’t see anything at all.

What is Streff syndrome?

Streff syndrome is a psychogenic condition that causes visual problems like blurry vision and nearsightedness. It’s most common in girls 6–12 years old who experience emotional stress.

Takeaway Note

Stress can impair your vision in multiple ways. It may contribute to dry eyes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other eye diseases.

It’s always a good idea to speak with a doctor if you notice any changes to your vision. You may also want to visit a mental health professional if you don’t feel like you can manage your stress on your own.

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