Can Stress Affect Your Vision?

Stress can affect your vision. In fact, chronic stress states can cause temporary vision loss and even trigger other health issues. However, reducing your stress levels can positively affect your health. Learn more in this article!
Can Stress Affect Your Vision?

Last update: 07 May, 2021

Stress can affect vision, even to the point of causing temporary vision loss. It’s not common for this to happen, but it’s relatively common for stress to produce minor visual disturbances that diminish your quality of life.

Unfortunately, we’ve become accustomed to stress being present in our lives. We know that it’s the source of several health problems, but we don’t usually take the time to fix this issue. This is a serious mistake, since stress can affect vision, but also cause or increase the risk of suffering serious health issues.

Chronic stress generates changes in the autonomic nervous system, resulting in changes in hormones and body chemistry. The effects are innumerable, even causing mutations in the genes. Therefore, any manifestation of stress should never be underestimated.

Can stress affect vision?

When we ask health professionals ask if stress can affect vision, the answer is a resounding yes. However, it’s not always the direct cause of visual problems, but sometimes acts as a coadjuvant factor in different health issues.

Emotional stress leads to direct effects on the eyes, which in principle aren’t so serious, such as eyelid twitching or tearing. It can also affect the vascular area, leading to blurred vision, low vision, or even transient loss of sight.

The stress hormone is cortisol and, therefore, a state of stress involves elevated levels of this substance. It causes imbalances in the autonomic or sympathetic nervous system and vascular alterations. These are factors that directly affect diseases such as glaucoma or optic neuropathy.

A man with poor vision
Stress increases cortisol, which causes changes in the nervous system that can affect vision.

Symptoms of the problem

We must emphasize that stress can affect vision, but in most cases, it only causes temporary effects and these usually resolve spontaneously. Symptoms that emotional stress may be affecting vision are as follows:

  • Blurred vision is one of the common symptoms and is distinguished from other eye problems when it’s an intermittent condition. That is, it occurs at times and then subsides.
  • Photosensitivity: anxiety causes the pupils to dilate and this makes us feel disturbed by light.
  • Tearing: usually associated with photosensitivity.
  • Tunnel vision: decreases side vision, particularly when we’re nervous.
  • Flashes of light: intermittent brightness.
  • Eye twitches

Ophthalmologists recommend not overlooking any of these symptoms, especially if they occur very frequently. Whether they’re due to stress or other health problems, a professional should evaluate you to prevent greater problems.

A man with eye problems
The symptoms of visual impairment due to stress are varied but can be controlled.

The consequences of stress on vision

There are several visual problems that doctors associate with stress. The most frequent and important are the following:

  • Myokymias or tics: These are small tremors or spasms that take place in the eyelids due to an involuntary movement in the muscles. This can last for days or weeks and usually isn’t accompanied by any other symptom.
  • Blepharitis or inflammation of the eyelids: This is one of the most common problems and is caused by stress and other causes. It’s often confused with dry eye syndrome and is therefore considered to be underdiagnosed. It causes redness, itching and even decreased visual acuity.
  • Visual fatigue, also known as visual stress or asthenopia. It causes blurred or double vision, difficulty focusing on a specific point, reading problems and headache. It generally affects those who spend a lot of time in front of a screen.
  • Central serous choroidopathy, or the involvement of the macula: This condition has blurred vision as a symptom; micropsia or perception of objects smaller than they are; metamorphopsias or distorted perception of objects; darkening of the central area of vision and general decrease in vision.
  • Loss of vision: Some people totally lose their vision due to stress. This type of person typically has a particular personality structure and, when examined, there’s no ocular damage. This absence of lesions or problems reveals that it’s a blindness of emotional origin.

It’s important to know that stress can affect many areas of your health, including your vision. That’s why it’s important to reduce stress and live as healthy and stress-free as possible. 

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  • Santos, L. R. H., Pérez, P. D. C., Castro, L. P., Sánchez, T. D. J. M., Fernández, R. N., & Domínguez, K. L. (2019). Terapia visual: ¿En qué consiste y cuándo indicarla?. Revista Cubana de Oftalmología, 32(3).