Stress could contribute to vision loss

Persistent psychological stress is a major contributor to the development and progression of vision loss according to an analysis of hundreds of published research and clinical reports on the relationship of stress and eye disease.

Your blurry vision, eye twitching, headaches and watery or dry eyes may be caused by stress.

Other stress-inducing vision issues include dizziness, eye strain, sensitivity to light, eye floaters and eye spasms.Stress, Stress could contribute to vision loss

Stress is the body’s natural response to any demand for change that interferes with its normal equilibrium. Whether the response is physical, mental, emotional or visual, stress affects all of us to one degree or another.

Stress can cause anxiety, depression, elevated blood pressure, digestive issues, migraines and even vision changes.

The psychosomatic aspect to symptoms of stress cannot be underestimated. Those familiar with the work of John Sarno, M.D., former professor of rehabilitation at NYU School of Medicine, recall that he views tension as the primary cause of chronic pain and most other symptoms.

Sarno sees these symptoms — including changes within the eye and vision system — as physical manifestations of repressed emotions. The purpose of the symptoms is to keep the patient focused on the physical body and away from surfacing emotion.

How Do Stress And Anxiety Impact Vision Loss?

One study suggests that long-term stress results in vision loss. This is because stress increases the hormone cortisol in the body, which impacts the sympathetic and vascular nervous systems. As a result, stress increases the likelihood of eye-related conditions like optic neuropathy and glaucoma, which can lead to a loss of vision. Someone might then have trouble reading, recognizing faces, or completing day-to-day tasks.

"Although stress is a known risk factor, its causal role in the development or progression of certain visual system disorders is not widely appreciated," says the researchers who carried out the study.

Adrenaline is another factor that can contribute to vision problems. Stress and anxiety can increase adrenaline levels in your body, which puts pressure on the eyes and even results in blurred vision. "Tunnel vision is another feature of excessive adrenaline," says Health Central. "This tends to occur at times high arousal or during a panic event."

Emotions and vision issues

          The term functional or hysterical vision loss is used to describe any vision impairment that cannot be explained by pathology or structural abnormalities. It has also been described as a “conversion disorder.”

          This loss of vision occurs outside the patient's conscious awareness.

          The “conversion” is the repression of emotions (such as fear and/or anger) that are converted to a significant reduction in vision. These patients complain of significant blur in the absence of refractive error (need for glasses) or pathology (disease).

          These patients have no issues with ocular motility (movement and alignment of the eyes) but do struggle with significant reduction in visual acuity. Their visual field is affected and appears to be “tubular.”

          Hysterical amblyopia falls in line with Sarno's belief that our minds want us to focus on the physical symptoms rather than the difficult emotions.

          Resolution often occurs with awareness of the condition, low plus lenses and/or the consideration of counseling to assist the patient.

What Exactly Happens To Your Vision?

Here are some of the effects of anxiety on eyes:

  • Panic disorders.
  • Stressful situations at work or at school.
  • Medication side effects.
  • Use of illicit drugs and alcohol

It is important to know what triggers your stress and anxiety. Avoiding certain situations or engaging with people that make you feel stressed can improve your overall health and well-being.

How Can You Reduce Eye-Related Stress And Anxiety?

There are a number of techniques that you can try in order to reduce the effect of stress on vision. Not all of these methods will work for everyone, though:

  • Take a warm, relaxing bath.
  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Meet with friends and family.
  • Laugh more.

Research shows that increasing your exercise levels can improve stress and anxiety. This is because exercise releases chemicals in the brain called endorphins, which make you feel good and improve well-being. One study suggests that 14 percent of people exercise in order to reduce stress.

Other lifestyle choices can also reduce stress and anxiety levels in the body. Eating healthier foods, for example, and limiting the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis can reduce cortisol levels. As a result, you might feel less stressed and anxious.

In more extreme circumstances, you might want to seek out professional help for your stress and anxiety. Talking to someone about the reasons you feel stressed and finding the root cause of the problem could provide you with long-term results when it comes to stress and the effect of anxiety on vision.

Don't put any additional stress on your eyes, either. Straining your eyes when you read or squinting can cause discomfort. These might be signs that you need to wear glasses or contact lenses, so visit a reputable optical department and speak to a professional about your options.

Research shows that stress and anxiety can have a profound impact on your eye health. When cortisol levels rise in your body, you are more likely to develop eye-related conditions such as glaucoma, which can result in a loss of vision. There are a number of things in life that cause stress and anxiety, but managing stressful situations will improve your eye health.


  1. How stress can affect your vision by: By Beth Duff, reviewed by Valerie Kattouf, OD, FAAO,  September 2019
  2. How Do Stress And Anxiety Impact Vision Loss? Oct 20th 2020

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