Anyone who has experiencing a headache combined with blurred vision knows well what a frightening experiencing it can be. You can have blurred vision in either one or both of your eyes, and it causes your vision to become dim, cloudy, or sometimes you can even see shapes and colors dancing in front of your eyes. Blurred vision makes it difficult to see. There are several medical conditions and injuries that can cause a headache and blurred vision together, with migraine being the most common cause. Read on to find out more about the causes of blurred vision and headache.
Causes of Blurred Vision and Headache
Here are some of the major medical conditions that can cause you to experience blurred vision and a headache at the same time.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, there are over 39 million people in the United States alone that suffer from migraines.(1,2,3) Out of these, 28 million are women as women tend to suffer from migraines more than men.(4) Migraine is a debilitating headache disorder that causes moderate to severe pain that tends to get worse by sound, light, or even movement.(5)
Migraine is the most common condition that causes blurred vision and headache together. Aura is the term used to refer to blurred vision that accompanies a migraine attack. Some of the other symptoms of migraine aura include:(6,7)
- Temporary vision loss
- Blind spots
- Seeing bright, flashing lights
- Shimmering stars or spots
- Flashes of light
Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia
Low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycemia, is known to sometimes occur in people who have diabetes. (9,10) However, it is not always necessary that you have diabetes in order to experience hypoglycemia. There are many other things that can cause your blood sugar levels to go down, including certain medications, fasting, and even consuming too much alcohol.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia include:
Symptoms of hypoglycemia can become more severe as the condition worsens. This is why it is so important to seek treatment for low blood sugar at the earliest. If left untreated, hypoglycemia can go on to cause seizures and loss of consciousness.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is another cause behind blurred vision and headache at the same time. Traumatic brain injury is a type of injury to the head that can cause damage to the brain. There are many types of brain injuries, including skull fractures and concussions.(11,12)
Car accidents, a major fall, and even sports injuries are some of the common causes of traumatic brain injury. The symptoms of traumatic brain injury can range from being mild to severe, depending on the severity of your injury and damage to the brain.
Other symptoms of traumatic brain injury include:
- Ringing in the ears
- Sudden mood changes
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of consciousness
- High or Low Blood Pressure
Changes in your blood pressure levels can also cause a combination of blurred vision and headache.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when your blood pressure increases over the healthy levels. High blood pressure does not develop overnight. It takes several years to develop and can come on without any symptoms. Due to this, hypertension is also known as the silent killer.(13,14)
People having high blood pressure can experience frequent headaches, blurred vision, nosebleeds, and even shortness of breath. Over a period of time, it can lead to severe and permanent damage to the blood vessels in the retina of your eyes, leading to retinopathy.(15) Retinopathy can lead to blurred vision and may also cause blindness in the long run.
Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, happens when blood pressure drops below the healthy levels.(16) Low blood pressure can be caused by certain medications, some medical conditions, surgery, and dehydration.
Hypotension can lead to blurred vision, headache, dizziness, and fainting. Going into shock is another possible severe complication of having very low blood pressure.
Hypotensive shock is a medical emergency that requires emergency medical attention.(17)
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is another medical condition that is known to cause blurred vision and headaches. This is a serious medical emergency that requires immediate medical care and results from a buildup of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream.(18,19)
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning gas, wood, propane, and other fuel.
Aside from blurred vision and headaches, some of the other signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include the following:
- Loss of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dull headache
It is essential to get treated for carbon monoxide poisoning as soon as it is detected.(20)
Also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, pseudotumor cerebri is a medical condition that also causes blurred vision and headaches. This medical condition causes your cerebrospinal fluid to build up around the brain, which increases pressure.(21)
This pressure causes headaches that are generally felt towards the back of your head and tend to worsen when you wake up or at night. This pressure is also known to cause vision problems, such as double or blurred vision.(22)
Some of the other symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri include:
- Persistent ringing in the ears
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Treatment of Blurred Vision and Headache
Treatment of blurred vision and headache depends on the underlying cause of these symptoms. If your symptoms only occurred once, then you are unlikely to require any treatment.
If your symptoms are caused by low blood sugar, then eating a fast-acting carbohydrate such as candy or fruit juice will rapidly boost your blood sugar levels.
In case the symptoms are being caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, then you will be treated with oxygen, either by being placed in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber or through a mask.(23)
Depending on the cause of your blurred vision and headache, the treatment may include:
- Blood thinners
- Pain medication such as aspirin
- Migraine drugs
- Blood pressure medications
- Anti-seizure medications
- Insulin and glucagon
Migraines most commonly cause blurred vision and headache, but there can be other causes of these symptoms as well. If you are worried about your symptoms and are occurring persistently, you should consult a doctor to rule out any serious cause of your symptoms.
If you find that your symptoms suddenly begin after a head injury and are increasing in their severity, and you are also experiencing other symptoms such as confusion and difficulty in speaking, you should seek emergency medical treatment.
- Migraine Research Foundation. 2020. Migraine Facts – Migraine Research Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://migraineresearchfoundation.org/about-migraine/migraine-facts/> [Accessed 29 May 2020].
- Waters, W.E. and O’connor, P.J., 1975. Prevalence of migraine. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 38(6), pp.613-616.
- Stewart, W.F., Shechter, A. and Rasmussen, B.K., 1994. Migraine prevalence. A review of population-based studies. Neurology, 44(6 Suppl 4), pp.S17-23.
- Marlene Cimons, T., 2020. Women Suffer Vastly More Migraines Than Men, Here’s Why. [online] ScienceAlert. Available at: <https://www.sciencealert.com/women-suffer-far-more-migraines-than-men-here-s-why> [Accessed 29 May 2020].
- Pietrobon, D. and Striessnig, J., 2003. Neurobiology of migraine. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(5), pp.386-398.
- Lauritzen, M., 1994. Pathophysiology of the migraine aura: the spreading depression theory. Brain, 117(1), pp.199-210.
- Russell, M.B. and Olesen, J., 1996. A nosographic analysis of the migraine aura in a general population. Brain, 119(2), pp.355-361.
- Silberstein, S.D., 1995. Migraine symptoms: Results of a survey of self‐reported migraineurs. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 35(7), pp.387-396.
- Cryer, P.E., Davis, S.N. and Shamoon, H., 2003. Hypoglycemia in diabetes. Diabetes care, 26(6), pp.1902-1912.
- Seaquist, E.R., Anderson, J., Childs, B., Cryer, P., Dagogo-Jack, S., Fish, L., Heller, S.R., Rodriguez, H., Rosenzweig, J. and Vigersky, R., 2013. Hypoglycemia and diabetes: a report of a workgroup of the American Diabetes Association and the Endocrine Society. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 98(5), pp.1845-1859.
- Laker, S.R., 2011. Epidemiology of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. PM&R, 3, pp.S354-S358.
- Edna, T.H. and Cappelen, J., 1987. Late postconcussional symptoms in traumatic head injury. An analysis of frequency and risk factors. Acta neurochirurgica, 86(1-2), pp.12-17.
- Oparil, S., Zaman, M.A. and Calhoun, D.A., 2003. Pathogenesis of hypertension. Annals of internal medicine, 139(9), pp.761-776.
- Moore, J., 2005. Hypertension: catching the silent killer. The Nurse Practitioner, 30(10), pp.16-35.
- Klein, R., Klein, B.E., Moss, S.E. and Wang, Q., 1993. Blood pressure, hypertension and retinopathy in a population. Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society, 91, p.207.
- Degoute, C.S., 2007. Controlled hypotension. Drugs, 67(7), pp.1053-1076.
- Havel, C., Arrich, J., Losert, H., Gamper, G., Müllner, M. and Herkner, H., 2011. Vasopressors for hypotensive shock. Cochrane database of systematic reviews, (5).
- Ernst, A. and Zibrak, J.D., 1998. Carbon monoxide poisoning. New England journal of medicine, 339(22), pp.1603-1608.
- Raub, J.A., Mathieu-Nolf, M., Hampson, N.B. and Thom, S.R., 2000. Carbon monoxide poisoning—a public health perspective. Toxicology, 145(1), pp.1-14.
- Weaver, L.K., 2009. Carbon monoxide poisoning. New England Journal of Medicine, 360(12), pp.1217-1225.
- AHLSKOG, J.E. and O’NEILL, B.P., 1982. Pseudotumor cerebri. Annals of Internal Medicine, 97(2), pp.249-256.
- Mallery, R.M., Friedman, D.I. and Liu, G.T., 2014. Headache and the pseudotumor cerebri syndrome. Current pain and headache reports, 18(9), p.446.
- Weaver, L.K., Hopkins, R.O., Chan, K.J., Churchill, S., Elliott, C.G., Clemmer, T.P., Orme Jr, J.F., Thomas, F.O. and Morris, A.H., 2002. Hyperbaric oxygen for acute carbon monoxide poisoning. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(14), pp.1057-1067.
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