Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Can anxiety cause blurred vision?"
I'm a college student, and I've noticed that my vision seems to suffer during midterms and final exams. Is it possible that stress or anxiety is causing my vision to blur, or am I just imagining things?
Anxiety attacks can definitely cause real problems, and could conceivably cause visual symptoms, though there may be another explanation. In an anxiety attack, the autonomic nervous system thinks that you are running for your life. The heart rate and blood pressure go up, which can cause many people to feel tightness in their chests, difficulty breathing, and headaches. The autonomic nervous system also controls the muscles surrounding the pupil of your eye, and sympathetic nerves (which are activated as part of the "fight-or-flight" response) cause the pupil to dilate (open wider). This allows more light in, but doesn't necessarily allow someone to focus his or her eyes and see fine detail clearly. Another possibility, though, is that your eyes are just tiring out. Asthenopia is a condition of eye fatigue that can result in blurry vision, headaches, and/or aching of the eyes. It can certainly happen while you spend hours in front of the computer or staring at a textbook, from constant contraction of muscles within the eye. Taking hourly breaks to focus on far-away objects can help people with asthenopia feel much better. Whatever the cause, you should believe that your symptoms are real, and if they persist, it is worth talking to your primary care doctor about them in detail, and possibly seeing an eye doctor.
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