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What Causes Sudden Nearsightedness?

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Have you ever found yourself squinting or struggling to see a sign, and you suddenly realize the world has become a bit blurrier? Sudden nearsightedness can result from genetics, prolonged screen time, hormones, underlying health conditions, and age-related changes.  

An eye exam can help your eye doctor determine the cause of sudden changes in your vision and provide the appropriate treatment or updated prescription eyewear

What is Nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness (myopia) is a refractive error that causes blurry vision at a distance while near vision is clear. For us to see clearly, light must enter the eyes and focus on the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) to form an image. 

But in an eye with nearsightedness, the eye is too long or the cornea (the front part of the eye) is too steep, causing light to focus in front of the retina instead of on it. This effect results in distant objects losing their sharpness and appearing blurry, while near objects appear clear.

Symptoms of nearsightedness include:

  • Blurry distance vision
  • Squinting
  • Tired or sore eyes
  • Eye strain

Nearsightedness is corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery. Early intervention in children is important to prevent severe nearsightedness using various myopia control methods

What Causes Sudden Nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness is a common vision issue that typically develops during childhood. It’s a complex issue caused by a combination of factors, including too much near-focused work, insufficient time outdoors while the eyes are growing, and genetics. Anyone can develop it. 

However, you can experience sudden onset nearsightedness during adulthood which can develop due to various factors, including a serious condition that requires immediate attention. 

Injury or Trauma

Any trauma to the eye can change its shape, leading to refractive errors like myopia, such as: 

  • Blunt force trauma: an impact or blunt force injury to the eye can cause changes in its shape, leading to myopia.
  • Chemical burns: contact with certain chemicals can cause changes to the shapes of the structures in the eyes, resulting in myopic shifts.
  • Eye surgery: a re-emergence of myopia after any corrective laser surgery on the eye, such as LASIK

Lifestyle Factors

Eye strain is becoming increasingly common in our digital age. Many of us spend hours each day staring at screens, leading to eye strain, fatigue, and vision changes. If you’re experiencing sudden nearsightedness, it could be due to eye strain. 

Digital eye strain can contribute to the sudden onset of nearsightedness due to the near-focused nature when looking at screens at a close distance. Studies show a link between screen time and the development of nearsightedness, especially in children and young adults. 

Studies also suggest that spending time engaged in outdoor activities may reduce the risk of myopia. Taking breaks using the 20-20-20 rule, adjusting your screen brightness, and wearing proper eyewear can all help to reduce eye strain and protect your eyes.

Changes in Hormones

Hormonal changes can also play a role in sudden nearsightedness. A principal complaint among pregnant women is an upset in vision related to nearsightedness. 

Nearsightedness in pregnancy is from metabolic and hormonal changes. An increase in estrogen and progesterone levels can amplify the lens thickness, thus increasing the eye’s refractive power and resulting in nearsightedness. While myopic changes in pregnancy are temporary, discuss sudden changes in your vision with your eye doctor.

Underlying Health Conditions

Our bodies are intricate machines, and sometimes, health conditions can throw a curveball at our eyes. Diabetes, for instance, can cause complications related to the eyes. 

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina, potentially causing vision changes, including blurry vision. If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, schedule regular diabetic eye exams to catch changes early.

Age-Related Changes

Cataracts are a common eye condition resulting from the natural aging process. In cataracts, your eye’s lens becomes opaque and can cause sudden nearsightedness. 

You can experience vision changes even in early or small cataracts as the lens thickens and can cause:

  • Nearsightedness
  • An increase in nearsightedness
  • More frequent prescription eyewear changes

If you notice sudden changes in your vision, book an eye exam to check for signs of cataracts. Your eye doctor can help recommend tips on coping with vision changes in the early stages. 

Treatment for early cataracts can include glasses or contact lenses to correct the refractive error. However, as cataracts progress, cataract surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and replace them with a synthetic lens. 

Eye Diseases

Some eye diseases can cause sudden nearsightedness as they progress. These include: 

  • Glaucoma: a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. While it primarily affects peripheral vision, some forms of glaucoma can also lead to changes in visual acuity, causing transient myopic symptoms.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina. As the disease progresses, it can cause fluctuations in vision, including myopic shifts.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): a leading cause of vision loss among older adults that primarily affects central vision. However, it can sometimes contribute to changes in refractive error, leading to temporary myopia.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa: a condition where your retina’s rod cells slowly deteriorate, causing vision abnormalities and eventually blindness. 
  • Uveitis: an inflammatory eye disease that can lead to sudden onset nearsightedness.
Close-up of a young boy looking into a machine that tests his vision.

Eye Health & Vision Clarity

Sudden nearsightedness can be a cause for concern, but in most cases, it is easily treatable. By understanding the common causes of sudden nearsightedness, you can take steps to protect your eyes and prevent any further damage. 

Children can benefit from early diagnosis of nearsightedness to prevent progression and reduce the risk of developing other eye conditions. If you’re experiencing sudden vision changes like blurry vision, book an appointment with Dr. Henslick Vision Center to determine the underlying cause and start treatment for better vision clarity and health.

Written by Total Vision

At Total Vision, we pride ourselves on ensuring healthy eyes for the whole family and work hard to help all our patients look, feel, and see better. With many locations throughout California, we continue to set new industry standards for professionalism and quality. We empower all our partners to offer leading-edge testing, treatment, and eyewear. With the support of our entire network behind each care provider, patients all over the state can enjoy consistent quality and incredible value.
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