Cataracts are the most common cause of clouded vision. Other causes may include Fuchs’ dystrophy, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Your doctor can help diagnose the cause and determine what treatment might work best.
Cloudy vision makes your world seem foggy.
When you can’t see things around you clearly, it can interfere with your quality of life. That’s why it’s important to find the underlying cause of your clouded eyesight.
Many people confuse blurry vision and cloudy vision. While they’re similar and may be caused by the same condition, they’re different.
- Blurry vision is when things look out of focus. Squinting your eyes may help you see more clearly.
- Cloudy vision is when it seems like you’re looking into a haze or fog. Colors may look muted or faded as well. Squinting doesn’t help you see things more sharply.
Some conditions that cause blurry or cloudy vision can lead to vision loss if not treated.
Clouded vision has many potential underlying causes. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common ones:
A cataract is a condition where the lens of your eye gets cloudy. Your lens is usually clear, so cataracts make it seem like you’re looking through a foggy window. This is the most common cause of cloudy vision.
As cataracts continue to grow, they can interfere with your daily life and make it more difficult to see things sharply or clearly.
Most cataracts develop slowly, so they only affect your vision as they grow. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but not at the same rate. The cataract in one eye may develop more quickly than the other, which can cause a difference in vision between eyes.
Age is the biggest risk factor for cataracts. This is because age-related changes can cause lens tissues to break down and clump together, which forms a cataract.
Cataracts are also more common in people who:
- have diabetes
- have high blood pressure
- take long-term steroid medication
- have previously had eye surgery
- have had some type of eye injury
Symptoms of cataracts include:
- cloudy or blurry vision
- difficulty seeing clearly at night or in low light
- seeing halos around lights
- sensitivity to light
- colors looking faded
- frequent changes in your glasses or contact lens prescriptions
- double vision in one eye
With early-stage cataracts, there are changes you can make to help alleviate symptoms, such as using brighter lights indoors, wearing anti-glare sunglasses, and using a magnifying glass to read.
However, surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts. Your doctor may recommend surgery when your cataracts interfere with your daily life, or reduce your quality of life.
During surgery, your clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. The surgery is an outpatient procedure and you can usually go home the same day.
Cataract surgery is typically very safe and has a high success rate.
For a few days after surgery, you’ll need to use eye drops and wear a protective eye shield when you sleep. You can typically go about your normal activities a few days after the surgery. Full recovery may take several weeks, though.
The cornea has a layer of cells called the endothelium, which pump fluid out of the cornea and keep your vision clear. In Fuchs’ dystrophy, endothelial cells slowly die off, which leads to fluid building up in the cornea. This can cause cloudy vision.
Many people don’t have any symptoms during the early stages of Fuchs’ dystrophy. The first symptom will usually be hazy vision in the morning that clears up during the day.
Later symptoms can include:
- blurry or cloudy vision all day
- tiny blisters in your cornea; these may break open and cause eye pain
- a gritty feeling in your eye
- sensitivity to light
Fuchs’ dystrophy is more common in women and in people with a family history of the disease. Symptoms usually appear after age 50.
Treatment for Fuchs’ dystrophy depends on how exactly the disease affects your eye, and may include:
- eye drops to reduce swelling
- using a heat source (such as a hair dryer) to help dry the surface of your cornea
- a corneal transplant of only endothelial cells, or the full cornea, if symptoms are severe and don’t respond to other treatment
There are two types of macular degeneration: wet and dry.
Most macular degeneration is the dry type. This is caused by small deposits called drusen building up under the center of the retina.
Wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessels forming behind the retina and leaking fluid.
In the beginning, you may not notice any symptoms. Eventually it will cause wavy, cloudy, or blurred vision.
Age is the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration. It’s more common in people over 55.
Other risk factors include family history, race — it’s more common in Caucasians — and smoking. You can reduce your risk by:
- not smoking
- protecting your eyes when you’re outside
- eating a healthy, nutritious diet
- exercising regularly
There’s no cure for macular degeneration. However, you can potentially slow its progression.
For wet macular degeneration, there are two treatments you and your doctor may consider to slow progression:
- Anti-VEGF therapy. This works by preventing blood vessels from forming behind the retina, which stops leakage. This therapy is given via a shot in your eye, and is the most effective way to slow the progression of wet macular degeneration.
- Laser therapy. This therapy may also help slow the progression of wet macular degeneration.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that damages blood vessels in the retina.
It’s caused by excess sugar in your blood that blocks the blood vessels that connect to the retina, which cuts off its blood supply. The eye will grow new blood vessels, but these don’t develop properly in people with diabetic retinopathy.
Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop the condition, especially if your blood sugar isn’t well managed.
Other factors that increase your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy include:
- having high blood pressure
- having high cholesterol
Early diabetic retinopathy may not cause any symptoms. In later stages, symptoms may include:
- blurred vision or cloudy vision
- muted colors
- empty or dark areas in your vision
- floaters (dark spots in your field of vision)
- vision loss
In early diabetic retinopathy, you may not need treatment. Your doctor may just monitor your vision to see when treatment should start.
More advanced diabetic retinopathy will need surgical treatment. This can stop or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but it can develop again if diabetes continues to be poorly managed.
Treatment may include:
- photocoagulation, which uses lasers to stop blood vessels from leaking
- panretinal photocoagulation, which uses lasers to shrink abnormal blood vessels
- vitrectomy, which involves the removal of blood and scar tissue through a tiny incision in your eye
- anti-VEGF therapy
Most causes of clouded vision get worse over time. But there are some cases when you can have sudden cloudy vision in one or both eyes.
- An eye injury, such as getting hit in the eye.
- An infection in your eye. Potential eye infections that can cause sudden clouded vision are herpes, syphilis, tuberculosis, and toxoplasmosis.
- Inflammation in your eye. As white blood cells rush to contain the swelling and inflammation, they can destroy eye tissue and cause sudden cloudy vision. Inflammation in the eye is often caused by an autoimmune disease, but may also be caused by infection or injury.
Occasional or slightly cloudy vision may be nothing to worry about. But you should see your doctor if the cloudiness lasts for more than a day or two.
You should also see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
When you have cloudy eyesight, it may seem like you’re looking at the world through a foggy window.
Cataracts are the most common cause of clouded vision. Most cataracts develop slowly, but usually become worse over time. Cataract surgery is the most effective treatment to help restore your vision.
Other less common causes of cloudy vision include Fuchs’ dystrophy, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
If you’re experiencing cloudy vision, talk to your doctor about potential causes and treatments.