What Is Cloudy Vision?

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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.

Cloudy Vision vs. Blurry Vision

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:

  • Dry eyes
  • The appearance of halos around lights
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Impaired night time vision
  • Red or sore eyes (bloodshot eyes)

Blurred vision, when accompanied by double vision, can be a symptom of a serious underlying health condition, including brain hemorrhages and strokes.

Common Causes of Cloudy Vision

There are a number of common factors and causes that can lead to cloudy vision, including: 

  • Age-related macular degeneration, which is an age-related disorder that leads to central vision loss
  • Cataracts, which decrease transparency in the lens
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Foreign objects within the eyes
  • Glaucoma
  • Injuries or around to the eyes
  • Damaged or dirty contact lenses

Rare, Life-Threatening Causes of Cloudy Vision

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: 

  • Serious injury to the cornea
  • Optic neuritis, which is inflammation of the optic nerves
  • Retinal detachment
  • Dystrophy of the cornea 
  • Corneal infection

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:

  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack, which may be a sign of a stroke coming on

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.

Possible 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:

  • Noticeable changes in mental status
  • Sudden changes in behavior
  • Confusion
  • Delirium
  • Severe headaches
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Sudden weakness
  • Numbness

Diagnosing Cloudy Vision 

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. 

Treatment Options for Cloudy Vision

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. 

Cloudy Vision FAQs

What causes sudden cloudy vision?

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.

Can dehydration cause cloudy vision?

Dehydration can lead to eye strain, which can result in temporary cloudy vision.

Can tiredness cause cloudy vision?

"Tired eyes" is a symptom of eye strain, which can lead to cloudy vision.

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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

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