Sudden Changes in Vision

Topic Overview

Vision changes may indicate a serious problem with the tissue that lines the back of the eyeball (retina), optic nerve, or blood vessels in the eye. Evaluation by a health professional is needed right away for sudden vision changes, such as:

  • Flashes of light (photopsia). Photopsia is brief but recurrent streaks, sparks, or flickers of light, particularly when you move your eyes or head. The flashes of light may be easier to see when you look toward a dark background. The brief flashes may occur with retinal detachment.
  • New floaters—shadows or dark objects that float across your visual field. Sudden development of floaters may be a sign of a retinal tear.
  • A dark curtain or veil across part of your visual field. This may occur with retinal detachment.
  • Partial or complete vision loss in one or both eyes. This may occur with retinal detachment.
  • Pain in the eye. Things like sunburn, injury, or infection may cause pain in the eye.
  • Painful sensitivity to light (photophobia). This may be a sign of a problem such as glaucoma or iritis.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carol L. Karp, MD - Ophthalmology
Current as of July 29, 2013

Current as of: July 29, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Additional Resources

First Nurse

  • First Nurse: Talk to one of our nurses 24 hours a day for free health care advice, resources and referrals! Call 515-239-6877 or 800-524-6877.
  • Health Library: Search our online library containing information on health conditions, medications, medical tests, and more.

Symptom Checker

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker