Trouble focusing the eyes is often due to digital eye strain. If you’ve been staring at screens, scrolling on your phone, and relying on electronic devices for too many hours a day, this can make focusing problematic.
While digital eye strain may be causing your eyes to have difficulty focusing, it is not the only cause. Other conditions, such as natural age-related eye changes, detached retina, or stroke, can create visual symptoms including trouble focusing.
Causes of Trouble Focusing
There are several potential factors that can contribute to difficulty focusing the eyes.
Digital Eye Strain
Computer vision syndrome is also known as digital eye strain. In today’s world, people are around screens an incredible amount, both for business and pleasure, so eye strain is becoming more common.
Trouble focusing after extended screen use is common. The issue is often addressed by making simple lifestyle modifications.
If you are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism, these refractive errors can result in trouble focusing.
Serious Causes of Sudden Vision Changes
While some trouble focusing is caused by digital eye strain or other forms of eye fatigue, sudden vision change may indicate more serious conditions. Here are some of them:
According to the National Eye Institute, symptoms of a detached retina include a shadow on the sides or middle of the visual field, specks floating in the vision, and flashes of light in one or both eyes.
A concussion is the result of a head injury. Visual changes like trouble focusing are often accompanied by changes in mood, confusion, headache, memory loss, dizziness, or tiredness.
A stroke can create a blurry vision and difficulty focusing in one or both eyes. Symptoms vary, but they can include problems seeing, numbness, severe headache, difficulty speaking, confusion, and difficulty walking.
According to the CDC, stroke is a leading cause of death that can be prevented. Fast treatment is essential to prevent death and disability.
Endophthalmitis is an infection inside the eye. Sudden blurry vision, eye pain, redness, and light sensitivity are characteristic of this severe infection and inflammation in the eye.
Hyphema is a condition where the blood pools in the eye. Blurry vision, bleeding, light sensitivity, and pain are symptoms of this condition. This is often caused by injury, infection, or trauma.
Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA)
GCA is a blood vessel disease. Blurry vision and headaches are characteristic of this inflammatory condition. It typically only occurs in people over 50 years of age.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD symptoms include blurry vision. This is a condition that can affect the retina, most commonly in older adults. This can affect one or both eyes.
A macular hole typically causes symptoms of blurriness and distorted vision. This is a condition found in people over 60 due to small tears in the eye’s macula.
Blurry distorted vision can occur when the optic nerve is inflamed. There may be other visual changes, such as flashing lights, loss of color vision, and pain around the eyes.
Blurry vision is one of the common symptoms of eye infections. Some eye infections include keratitis, conjunctivitis, orbital cellulitis, and uveitis.
Keratitis symptoms include tearing, redness, irritation, and pain. This condition involves inflammation of the cornea.
Conjunctivitis symptoms include blurry vision, discharge, and the whites of the eyes appearing pink or red. This may be caused by allergies, bacteria, or a virus.
Orbital cellulitis symptoms include bulging eyes, difficulty moving the eye, and fever. This is an infection caused by bacteria or fungus.
Uveitis symptoms include blurred vision, light sensitivity, and pain in one or both eyes.
Migraines may include visual symptoms, such as trouble focusing, seeing an aura, blurry vision, and seeing flashing lights.
Treatments for Trouble Focusing the Eyes
Treatments vary depending on the underlying cause and condition. In most cases, if your trouble focusing is due to eye strain, you’ll be able to focus again after you have rested your eyes.
Treatments for Eye Strain
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, simple modifications can help to relieve eye strain and prevent discomfort.
Practice the 20-20-20 guideline for taking breaks. Take a break from your focused work every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Adjust Your Screen
Take steps to sit about an arm’s length from your computer screen. Sit so you can be erect without slouching. Adjust the contrast and brightness of your screen, so your eyes are comfortable.
Use Eye Drops
If your eyes feel dry or uncomfortable, use eye drops for lubrication. Artificial tears are available over the counter in most pharmacies.
Use Computer Glasses
Talk to your eye doctor about computer glasses. These spectacles can help you focus on screens without creating eye strain. These are not the same as blue-light-blocking glasses.
Detached Retina Treatment
Treatment is to reattach the retina with surgery, laser surgery, or freezing treatment. This condition requires immediate treatment to avoid permanent vision damage.
Treatment involves seeing a doctor to determine the scope of injury. Rest and avoid taking medications that can mask symptoms.
Rest is often advised for 24 to 48 hours. Over-the-counter painkillers can help with headaches, but stay in touch with your doctor if you continue to have trouble focusing your eyes.
According to the CDC, treatments are most effective within the first three hours of a stroke. Treatment varies depending on what part of the brain is involved and the underlying cause.
Endophthalmitis requires emergency treatment. This may include antibiotics, antifungal injections, or surgery. According to AAO, rapid treatment is critical for preventing blindness.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, treatment may include having an ophthalmologist surgically remove blood from the eye. Home remedies may include raising the head to help blood drain from the eye, resting, and wearing an eye shield.
Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) Treatment
Corticosteroid treatment is vital to prevent vision damage.
Treatment for early AMD focuses on lifestyle modifications. Stopping smoking can slow down the progression of the disease. Injections and laser treatments may slow the loss of vision in later stages.
Macular Hole Treatment
Treatment may include a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure to repair macular holes. According to the National Eye Institute, some macular holes may heal over time without interventions.
Treatment of Optic Nerve Inflammation
Treatment may be steroids if symptoms are severe. Lifestyle modifications, such as not smoking, a healthy diet, and proper hydration, may also help with recovery.
Keratitis can be treated with medicated eye drops or tablets. The treatment varies depending on the underlying cause.
Allergic conjunctivitis may be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines. Bacterial conjunctivitis may be treated with antibiotics. There is no treatment for viral conjunctivitis; it will heal with time.
Orbital cellulitis treatment can include antibiotics or may include surgery to drain fluid.
Uveitis is an inflammatory condition that is often treated with steroids.
Treatment is focused on easing symptoms with prescribed medicine and making lifestyle modifications to prevent future attacks.
Trouble Focusing the Eyes FAQs
What causes trouble focusing your eyes?
Trouble focusing your eyes may be caused by common conditions, such as digital eye strain, refractive errors, or eye infections. It can also be a symptom of serious medical conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Why won’t my eyes focus all of a sudden?
If your eyes suddenly won’t focus, it may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as a detached retina or a stroke. If you experience sudden blurriness, numbness, confusion, severe headache, or difficulty walking, call 911. Emergency medical treatment is needed.
Can anxiety cause trouble focusing eyes?
Anxiety can cause blurry vision, headaches, and fatigue. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), emotional symptoms and physical symptoms are uncommon in anxiety disorders. Comprehensive treatment, such as psychotherapy, medications, and complementary health approaches, are often used to help reduce anxiety.
Computer Vision Syndrome. American Optometric Association.
Digital Eye Strain: Prevalence, Measurement and Amelioration. (April 2018). BMJ Open Ophthalmology.
Digital Eye Strain. (August 2019). Cleveland Clinic.
AAO: Looks Like the Home Office is Here to Stay. (March 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Types and Causes of Retinal Detachment. (December 2020). National Eye Institute.
Concussion. (January 2022). StatPearls.
Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Endophthalmitis. (2016). American Society of Retina Specialists.
What Is Hyphema? (May 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Giant Cell Arteritis. (2021). American College of Rheumatology.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). (June 2021). National Eye Institute.
Macular Hole. (May 2022). National Eye Institute.
What Is Uveitis? (December 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Migraine Headaches. Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Retinal Detachment. (April 2022). National Eye Institute.
Treat and Recover From Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What Is Endophthalmitis? (January 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Vitrectomy. (December 2020). National Eye Institute.
Are Blue Light-Blocking Glasses Worth It? (March 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Anxiety Disorders. National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Last Updated January 10, 2023
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