Can Stress Make You Go Blind?

Can stress raise eye pressureStress can take a toll on many aspects of your health, including your vision. Symptoms can range from barely noticeable, like eye twitching, to being as severe as vision loss. Fortunately, stress and its effects can be easily managed with a combination of comprehensive eye exams and management techniques like exercise and yoga.

Eyesight and Stress

The effects of stress on your eyesight were once a benefit. For instance, stress causes your pupils to dilate and absorb more light. This was a huge benefit for ancient humans since it allowed them to see potential threats more clearly. It may have been helpful when humans were trying to avoid saber-toothed tigers, but not so much when we’re dealing with spreadsheets.  

We’re willing to bet that you aren’t dodging giant, prehistoric cats in your office. Increased adrenaline causes blurred vision by putting more pressure on the eyes, which is just one of the negative effects of stress on your vision. This isn’t ideal for the lifestyle most of us live today.

What can make the situation worse is that the effects of stress on your vision can often go unnoticed. As Barbara Horn, OD and president of the American Optometric Association explains:

Many patients are not always aware of the impact of stress on their visual health and function. The ocular impact of stress may range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating vision loss.

In other words, you aren’t always aware that stress is affecting your vision or your overall health. The effects of stress can be subtle, and can even lead to serious problems if left unchecked. 

Stress-Related Eye Problems

Stress is a natural reaction to things that interrupt our normal habits and routines. However, it can lead to serious physical health issues if left unchecked. These problems can include:

  • Eye twitching
  • Tunnel vision
  • Dry or runny eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye floaters
  • Eyestrain

One of the most concerning effects of stress on eyesight is vision loss. According to a study published in the EPMA Journal, an important European health publication, constant stress can raise the levels of a hormone known as cortisol, which can have a huge impact on your nervous system. Ultimately, it can even lead to vision loss if left untreated due to glaucoma or optic neuropathy.

Interested in learning more about eye floaters? Check out Eye Floaters: What are They and Do I Have Them? to find out more!


Glaucoma is a disease that increases the pressure within your eyes, known as intraocular pressure. The increased pressure can lead to the loss of peripheral vision and even blindness if left untreated. Glaucoma is a particularly dangerous eye disease since it doesn’t have any signs or symptoms in its early stages. This has earned it the nickname, “the silent thief of sight.”

While medications and surgical treatments exist that can help stop additional vision loss, there is currently no cure for the disease. The best strategy for treating glaucoma is early detection via comprehensive eye exams in order to slow its progression.

Optic Neuropathy

Optic neuropathy is an umbrella term used to describe abnormalities of or damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is what connects the eyes and the brain, transmitting visual data from the retina. Along with stress, damage to the optic nerve can occur due to a number of reasons, including:

  • Blocked blood flow
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Medications
  • Neurological problems
  • Certain medical conditions

Since optic neuropathy can cover a wide range of problems with the optic nerve, it can also have a wide range of effects. For instance, optic neuritis is a condition where both the nerve and its protective layer can become inflamed. Besides vision loss, optic neuritis can result in:

  • Pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Blind spots
  • Reduced color vision

Reduce Stress for Eye Health

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent its effects on your vision as well as your overall health. One of the most important steps you can take is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

Comprehensive eye exams are about more than updating your contact or eyeglass prescription. They give us an in-depth look into your eyes, providing a more complete view of your overall health. Comprehensive eye exams allow eye health professionals to see inside the eye, giving us the ability to spot other health problems such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer

Many forms of stress management can be cheap or even free. 

Click here to learn more about how eye diseases can affect your vision!

Get More Exercise

Try to get moving throughout your week. Exercise actually lowers levels of stress hormones like cortisol, as well as releases endorphins to improve your mood. Regularly breaking a sweat can also help improve the quality of your sleep and give you a confidence boost.

Cut Back On Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that can actually increase anxiety in higher doses. People can react to caffeine differently, so pay attention to when caffeine is causing you to feel more anxious. Limit your intake to five cups or fewer for a moderate amount of caffeine.

Take Up Yoga

There are a ton of different yoga styles to try, but they’re all focused on the same goal — connecting your mind and body. To do this, yoga instructors guide their students by focusing on the awareness of their bodies and breath. It’s perfect for releasing the stress and anxiety of everyday life. There are even many free options to do yoga in your own home!

The effects of stress on your vision can range from barely noticeable, such as a twitching eyelid, to symptoms as severe as vision loss. What’s concerning is that these symptoms can go unnoticed until it’s too late as glaucoma and optic neuropathy set it. To help prevent these repercussions, schedule a comprehensive eye exam and practice management techniques such as exercise and yoga.

Are you concerned about the impact stress may be having on your vision? Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has been serving Knoxville since 2009. Dr. Travis Thompson and Dr. Catherine Abbott specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide array of eye diseases, conditions, and problems and are committed to improving the quality of life in the Knoxville community through enhanced vision. Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way, you can schedule an appointment online or give us a call at (865) 888-0892.

Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Thompson was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. His family has lived in the Hardin Valley area since 1998, and he graduated from Karns High School in 2004. Dr. Thompson runs Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical alongside his wife, Dr. Catherine Abbott.

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"Dr. Thompson is super professional, and has some of the best 'bedside manner' that I have ever witnessed from any doctor. His staff was very helpful in assisting me with picking out regular frames and sunglasses. I’d happily recommend Dr. Thompson to anyone looking for a eye doctor."
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