What Causes Rapid Vision Loss?
Submitted by Elman Retina Group on May 2, 2019
Vision loss is considered rapid or sudden if it occurs within a few minutes to a couple of days. It can occur in one eye or both, and all or part of a field of vision. If the vision loss occurs in only a small portion of the field of vision, it may seem like blurred vision. Rapid vision loss can be a sign of a serious problem, and if left untreated can lead to blindness.
Understanding How the Eye Works
In order for you to see, light must travel through several of the eye’s structures, in this order:
- The cornea, the transparent layer in front of the iris and pupil that focuses light
- The iris, which controls the amount of light reaching the back of the eye by adjusting the size of the pupil
- The clear lens located behind the pupil that further focuses light
- The vitreous humor, a jelly-like substance that fills the eyeball and helps hold its shape
- The retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye
The retina converts optical images into electronic signals so the optic nerve can transmit the signals to the visual cortex, or the part of the brain that controls your sense of sight. The eye’s internal structures work in unison to produce clear, sharp vision.
Common Causes of Rapid Vision Loss
There are three main causes of sudden vision loss:
Clouding of the normally transparent eye structures. This can be a result of corneal scarring due to trauma/injury to the eye, corneal ulcer, bleeding into the vitreous humor, infections in the cornea (e.g., herpes keratoconjunctivitis).
Abnormalities of the retina. A detached retina, diabetic retinopathy and neovascular “wet” age-related macular degeneration can lead to sudden vision loss. Another cause is inadequate blood supply to the retina, usually due to a blockage of the retinal artery or vein or blood clots that travel from the eye from another area of the body (such as from the carotid artery in the neck).
Abnormalities of the optic nerve and visual pathways. A number of disorders can affect the optic nerve or the pathways inside the brain. These include strokes, brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, strokes and inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis or ischemic optic neuropathy). One form of glaucoma, a group of eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve from high pressure in the eye, is also associated with rapid vision loss. Unlike other forms of glaucoma, acute angle-closure glaucoma produces sudden symptoms like eye pain, headaches, halos around lights, red eyes, nausea and rapid vision loss.
Rapid vision loss is considered to be an emergency. Even if your vision returns, it’s crucial that you see an eye doctor immediately to potentially avoid further damage. Dr. Michael J. Elman has over 30 years of experience diagnosing and treating a wide range of retinal conditions. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Elman, please call (410) 686-3000 today.