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What Causes Dim Vision?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Dim vision can be caused by an assortment of eye conditions, and patients should seek treatment if they notice dimming in their visual field. It can be a sign of an acute ocular condition that needs immediate treatment. An ophthalmologist can examine the patient, determine the cause, and recommend some treatments to address it. Patients with a history of vision problems should make sure their doctors know about it when they seek care for dimmer than normal vision.

Sometimes the issue is infection or inflammation in the eye and around the optic nerve. Inflammation of the eyelids and neighboring structures can also cause dim vision, as can a foreign body in the eye. The patient may also notice eye pain, headaches, and a discharge from the eye in these cases. Blurred vision can also occur, and sometimes swelling narrows the eyes to slits and makes it hard to see.

Macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts are also associated with dim vision. It can onset slowly, but patients may not notice the problem until it becomes quite severe. The gradual visual changes may happen at a rate the patient can adapt to, until significant vision loss has occurred and the dimming vision becomes unavoidable. Some patients also have low or dim vision as a result of conditions that interfere with the perception of color.

Another potential cause is a tumor in the brain, usually close to the optic nerve. The tumor can put pressure on the nerve and interfere with the signals it sends, causing the vision to appear dim. In this case, dim vision can onset quite suddenly, as the patient may not notice a change until the tumor is big enough to push on the optic nerve. Such people may also experience headaches and cognitive impairments.

When a patient reports to the doctor with dim vision, the first step is often to look inside the eye for signs of damage. If there is an apparent problem with the eye, the doctor can determine what it is and treat it. For conditions like glaucoma, treatment options primarily arrest damage and will not fix existing eye problems. It is important to get regular screening for glaucoma so patients can access medication before substantial vision loss occurs. If the doctor cannot find anything wrong with the eye, the next step may be to conduct some medical imaging studies of the skull to look for irregularities around the optic nerve.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By golf07 — On Oct 27, 2011

@John57 - Yes, many people experience loss of vision from cataracts, and once they are removed are able to see much clearer. It is also not uncommon for them to have them removed more than once from the same eye.

I consider those who have loss of vision from cataracts much more fortunate than those who have macular degeneration.

My mom has always been an avid reader and always said as long as she had her vision and could read, she would be happy.

Unfortunately, she has developed macular degeneration in both eyes and now has trouble seeing very well at all.

Her dimming of vision was something that happened gradually, so she was somewhat able to prepare herself for it. It still doesn't take away the frustration of not being able to see and do things that you loved to do.

There are some devices that help and enable her to stay in her own home, but she really misses being able to pick up any book or magazine and read it.

By John57 — On Oct 26, 2011

My dad is in his 80's and though he is still able to drive, has noticed some changes in his vision.

I was recently riding with him in the car where he was driving and I was navigating. It soon became apparent that I could read the street signs much earlier than he could.

He had to be much closer to the sign to see it clearly before I could. I knew he had just got new glasses, so asked him if the doctor had checked him for cataracts.

He said the doctor said to give it one more year. He still does pretty good in the day time, but doesn't do much night driving any more.

I know cataracts is just one cause of dimness of vision, but it is also one that can be corrected fairly easily.

My friend had cataract surgery done and was home before noon with a minimal healing time. She was able to see better right away.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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