When is Blurred Vision a Medical Emergency?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, June 15, 2021

If a headache occurs with or causes blurred vision, it may be a medical emergency.

This page will briefly discuss five possible causes of a headache and blurred vision, as when to treat these as a medical emergency.

Important Note: This page is not to be considered as medical advice, we recommend seeking appropriate medical attention at all times.

If you are concerned you or your child requires emergency eye care, immediately contact an eye doctor near you.

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When is blurred vision a medical emergency?

Some of the possible medical conditions that can cause simultaneous headache and blurred vision include:

1. Low blood sugar

Hypoglycemia can cause headaches and blurred vision when the brain is starved of glucose, which is its primary fuel source.

Blood sugar levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day and in between meals.

If someone’s blood sugar levels get too low, typically less than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), they become hypoglycemic.

Without treatment, hypoglycemia can cause permanent damage .

2. Stroke

Strokes are responsible for 1 out of every 20 deaths.

A stroke can occur when a blood clot blocks a vessel carrying blood to the brain. This is called an ischemic stroke. Less commonly, a stroke may happen when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, which is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

3. Traumatic brain injury

People with moderate to severe TBI need emergency care and may require surgery to prevent further damage to their brain tissues.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury that interferes with normal brain functioning. A jolt, bump, hit, blow, or penetrating object causes most TBIs.

A concussion is one type of TBI that occurs as a result of a blow to the head.

People with mild TBI often experience a headache and blurred vision.

4. Carbon monoxide poisoning

More than 20,000 people in the U.S are admitted to the emergency department for accidental exposure to carbon monoxide every year.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas present in the fumes that burning fuel creates.

Carbon monoxide poisoning causes a variety of symptoms as it deprives the body and brain of oxygen. A headache and vision problems, such as blurred vision, are common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Emergency healthcare teams may give people with severe carbon monoxide poisoning 100 percent oxygen through a tube they put directly into the individual’s airway.

When to see a doctor?

If you experience headaches, together with suddenly blurred vision, contact your nearest eye doctor or physician to seek emergency medical care urgently.

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The optimum results are achieved if the underlying medical condition is treated as soon as possible.