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Cloudy vision, not to be confused with blurry vision, is when objects in the line of sight appear ‘milky’ or ‘hazy’ almost as if the viewer were looking through a thin film or unclean piece of glass. Cloudy vision may also dull the viewer’s perception of colors, distort image edges, and create halos surrounding lights.
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Cloudy vision and blurry vision are two distinct conditions that materialize in different ways. Though they can both be caused by some of the same underlying eye problems, such as cataracts or damaged corneas, they are separate problems and require different treatment.
Blurred vision is a loss of sharpness when viewing objects. Though it can be the result of something more serious, it is commonly experienced by many people and can be caused by nearsightedness or farsightedness, which can be treated by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Cloudy vision, on the other hand, is usually more problematic. It is often caused by a more severe underlying issue and is usually accompanied by secondary symptoms such as:
Blurred vision, when accompanied by double vision, can be a symptom of a serious underlying health condition, including brain hemorrhages and strokes.
There are a number of common factors and causes that can lead to cloudy vision, including:
In rare instances, cloudy vision may be caused by more serious conditions. While rare, these can be very problematic, especially if left untreated or undiagnosed. Some of the causes of cloudy vision that are more serious include:
Rarer still, eye clouding might be a sign of a dangerous and life-threatening underlying condition. Some of these conditions are not eye-specific problems and need to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to avoid a potentially life-threatening situation. Some of these causes include:
Because of the possibility of any of these conditions being present, which are not outwardly easy to diagnose, people experiencing cloudy vision should seek immediate medical consultation to rule out any of these life-threatening causes and avoid further complications.
Untreated or undiagnosed cloudy vision could lead to further problems. Possible complications from leaving underlying conditions unchecked include changing levels of alertness or consciousness (fainting or becoming unresponsive), as well as:
Due to the potential of serious underlying causes, diagnosing cloudy vision must be done by a specialized medical professional, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Some conditions are easier to identify, such as macular degeneration or cataracts, while others, such as diabetes or brain tumors, require more in-depth study to pinpoint the exact cause.
While occasional or slightly cloudy vision may not be a serious issue, a doctor should be seen if the condition persists or worsens. It is crucial to get diagnosed early and correctly, as treatment is more likely to be successful the earlier it is administered.
Different causes of cloudy vision require different procedures or eye surgeries. The most straightforward and successful treatment is cataract surgery. However, this is only applicable if cataracts are the cause of the cloudy vision.
Treating infections, such as those in the cornea, can be done with antibiotics. Removing foreign objects through surgical procedures can be successful in treating cloudy vision if it were the foreign objects causing the issue. However, the vision can remain cloudy for some time if the infection or foreign object removal leaves a scar on the cornea.
As far as brain tumors, strokes, and other underlying conditions that cause cloudy vision yet are not eye-specific ailments, they need to be treated by medical professionals and eye doctors.
The bottom line is that people experiencing cloudy vision should seek medical guidance as early as possible to have the best chance of successful treatment.
The most common cause of cloudy vision is cataracts. A refractive error, such as astigmatism, can also cause eye cloudiness. However, sudden cloudy vision, or blurred vision, can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Even if this occurs temporarily, it is essential to seek medical attention.
Dehydration can lead to eye strain, which can result in temporary cloudy vision.
"Tired eyes" is a symptom of eye strain, which can lead to cloudy vision.
Watson, S., Cabrera-Aguas, M., & Khoo, P. (2018). Common eye infections. Australian prescriber, 41(3), 67–72. https://doi.org/10.18773/austprescr.2018.016
National Eye Institute. Cataracts. NEI https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataracts
American Foundation for the Blind. Glossary of Eye Conditions. AFB https://www.afb.org/blindness-and-low-vision/eye-conditions
Johns Hopkins Medicine Wilmer Eye Institute. Eye Infections. JHWEI https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/wilmer/conditions/infections.html