If some part of our body other than our eyes starts misbehaving, say our knee feels sore when we climb stairs, we might ignore it or try to “shake it off” and keep going. Or we might remember the hard workout we did yesterday, realizing we need a bit more rest. We decide to ice our knee or sit with it elevated, and to postpone that strenuous hike for a few days. We know this is only a temporary problem. Yet if our vision gets blurry, since we depend on it so heavily, we often choose not to pay attention until our eyes are screaming at us. Or we overreact.
Since I grew up wearing thick eyeglasses, I’m accustomed to blurry vision. As I’ve improved my eyesight, I’ve learned to notice my degree of blur. Is the view slightly fuzzy, yet I can still make out what is what, or is it literally true that I “can’t see a thing”? When I was a child I felt helpless without my glasses. When I started vision improvement I found out quickly that I could almost always see something, even if it wasn’t crystal clear. I’ve learned to look for the clarity within the blur, finding a small detail I can see, then another, then another, until most or all of what I want to see is clear enough.
According to Dr. Bates, the vision improvement pioneer from more than 100 years ago, all vision difficulties are the result of strain. So the simplistic answer to the title question is that your vision is blurry because you’re straining. Period and end of story. And you may not know you’re straining, because it’s so familiar, so habitual, the usual way you use your eyes and brain to see. We need to become detectives, tracing that strain when we read for too long back to our poor posture, or not taking a break when we need one, or some other bad habit that is hurting our vision. If we know what we’re doing wrong to harm our vision, we can learn to do it differently in a way that’s more beneficial.
Here are some situations when you might notice blurry vision, with suggestions as to what’s going on and what to do. Note this is not intended to be an exhaustive list! There may be as many ways to blur vision as there are people on the planet. Use this information to help determine how you are straining your eyes, and how you can be more supportive of them.
— You’re reading, and the letters start to blur and swim together.
It may be just that your vision needs a brief break. You can do a bit of palming, or get up and stretch, looking out the window for a few minutes. Rubbing your eyes (which is like beating a hard-working horse to make him go faster), or continuing to read despite the eyestrain, isn’t a good idea.
— Your eyes are sore and dry when you wake up. It takes a few hours of walking around to see more clearly.
It’s possible you’re staring in your sleep, which Dr. Bates wrote about, a common unconscious habit of people with poor vision. He recommended doing the Long Swing before bed to break up the staring pattern.
It’s also possible you’re dehydrated, and since you’re not blinking when you sleep, your eyes are getting drier. Make sure you’re drinking enough clean water to keep your eyes moist.
— You’re walking outdoors, enjoying the long views and fresh air, appreciating everything you see. You come back inside and your vision isn’t as clear indoors.
Natural light is the best for human eyesight. We did not evolve to see under fluorescent lighting! Most people can see better outside than they can indoors, even on a cloudy day. For better indoor visibility, keep your windows clean and consider full-spectrum light bulbs. And use good vision habits, appreciating what you can see and noticing small details, rather than waiting until you go outdoors again to enjoy using your eyes!
— You’re in an unpleasant social situation, feeling more and more uncomfortable, when you notice your vision getting blurry.
There’s a good chance you do not need stronger glasses. What is it in this environment that you don’t want to see? Name it, at least to yourself, don’t hide from it. Then decide on a better way to cope without having to blur your vision.
If your vision declines, outdoors or in, exercising or reading, you are looking in a less relaxed way, with less attention to details. Your visual system is giving you an important message — don’t shoot the messenger! Are you rushing, trying to see everything at once, to “make progress”, at the expense of your eyes and brain which were not designed to work this way? Back to basics: frequent easy blinking, moving your gaze around the scene in front of you and from near to far, focusing on small details. Treat your eyes right, and they’ll perform like champions for you. To be well, you have to see well!