What Is Cloudy Vision?

6 sources cited
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Cloudy vision is when objects appear ‘milky’ or ‘hazy.’ It's as if the viewer were looking through a thin film or an unclean piece of glass.

Cloudy vision can dull the viewer’s perception of colors, distort image edges, and create halos around lights.

Cloudy Vision vs. Blurry Vision

Cloudy vision and blurry vision may result from some of the same underlying eye problems, such as cataracts. However, they’re different conditions:

  • Blurred vision is when objects appear out of focus or soft around the edges
  • Cloudy vision is when the object looks like it’s behind a foggy window or layer of haze

Blurred vision is a common symptom of nearsightedness or farsightedness. Both conditions can be treated by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Blurry and cloudy vision can be caused by conditions that may lead to serious complications, including vision loss if left untreated.

Common Causes of Cloudy Vision in One Eye or Both Eyes

Many common conditions can lead to cloudy vision, including:

Cataracts

A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens of your eye becomes cloudy. Cataracts are very common in older adults. More than half of Americans over age 80 have cataracts or have had them treated with cataract surgery.2

Symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy or blurry vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Colors that look faded or dull
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Double vision
  • Increased need for a stronger eyeglass prescription

Certain factors can increase your risk for cataracts, including:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Having diabetes
  • Having a family history of cataracts
  • Spending a lot of time in the sun
  • Having had a previous eye injury or eye surgery
  • Taking steroids for a health condition like arthritis
  • Receiving radiation treatment on your upper body

Posterior Capsule Opacification

Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens capsule. This can occur after cataract surgery. It’s sometimes called a secondary cataract.

PCO can cause cloudy vision weeks, months, or years after surgery. Your ophthalmologist can treat PCO with a 5-minute laser surgery called a posterior capsulotomy.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is common. It’s a leading cause of vision loss in people over age 50. The two forms of the disease are dry AMD and wet AMD. About 80% of people with AMD have the dry type6. Though less common, wet AMD is far more serious.

Dry AMD occurs when clumps of protein called drusen develop inside your eye. These protein deposits slowly reduce central vision. The early stages of AMD may not cause symptoms. Eventually, straight lines appear wavy, and vision becomes cloudy or blurry.

Risk factors for AMD include:

  • Being over 50 years old
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fat
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a family history of AMD

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that can affect people with diabetes. It’s a result of damage to the blood vessels in the retina.

At first, diabetic retinopathy may cause mild or no symptoms. Later stages of diabetic retinopathy can cause:

  • Blurry or cloudy vision
  • Eye floaters
  • Dark or empty areas in your visual field
  • Vision loss

Diabetic retinopathy can lead to permanent vision loss. Fortunately, treatment can slow and possibly stop the disease's progression.

Treatment for diabetic retinopathy may include:

  • Injecting medications into the eye
  • Laser treatments, such as photocoagulation to shrink blood vessels
  • Vitrectomy surgery to remove blood and scar tissue

Eye Floaters

Eye floaters are tiny spots or squiggly lines that seem to float across your visual field. Unlike other eye conditions, floaters don’t cause widespread cloudy vision. However, large floaters can have a hazy or cloudy appearance.

Complications of Contact Lenses

Contacts can cause dry spots in your eyes that lead to cloudy vision. Cracks or tears in the lenses are other possible causes. 

Causes of Sudden Cloudy Vision in One or Both Eyes

Most causes of cloudy vision develop slowly. Clouded vision that occurs suddenly may be due to a serious condition that requires treatment, such as:

  • Eye injuries, such as a blow to the eye
  • Eye infections, such as herpes or bacterial keratitis
  • Eye inflammation from an infection, injury, or autoimmune disease

Seek medical attention if you experience sudden cloudy vision.

When to See an Eye Doctor for Cloudy Vision

Mild cloudy vision that lasts a day or two usually isn’t a cause for concern. However, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if the cloudiness persists or worsens.

The following symptoms also warrant a doctor’s visit:

  • Eye pain that’s sudden or severe
  • A headache that accompanies the cloudy vision
  • Vision changes
  • Seeing light flashes
  • A gritty sensation in your eye

Your doctor will diagnose the underlying cause of the cloudy vision and review treatment options.

Diagnosing Cloudy Vision 

Diagnosing cloudy vision requires seeing an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Some conditions are easy to identify, such as macular degeneration or cataracts. Others, such as diabetes, require in-depth study to pinpoint the exact cause. 

It's crucial to get diagnosed early and correctly. Treatment is more likely to be successful the earlier it's administered.

Treatment Options for Cloudy Vision

Different causes of cloudy vision require other procedures or eye surgeries. The most straightforward and successful treatment is cataract surgery. However, this is only applicable if cataracts cause cloudy vision. 

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. 

 

6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Watson, S., et al, . “Common eye infections,” Australian prescriber, 1, Jun. 2018.
  2. Cataracts,” National Eye Institute, 21, Apr. 2022
  3. Pink Eye,”Johns Hopkins Medicine Wilmer Eye Institute, n.d. 
  4. What Is a Posterior Capsulotomy?,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 24, May 2022. 
  5. What Is Macular Degeneration?,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 10, Feb. 2022.
  6. Diabetic retinopathy,” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, n.d.
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