Video:Acute vision loss

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Acute visual loss is a rapid loss of the ability to see. Common causes include retinal detachment, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and giant cell arteritis.[1]

Retinal detachment

Retinal detachment should be considered if there were preceding flashes or floaters, or if there is a new visual field defect in one eye.[2][3] If treated early enough, retinal tear and detachment can have a good outcome.[2]


Angle-closure glaucoma should be considered if there is a painful loss of vision with a red eye, nausea or vomiting.[4] The eye pressure will be very high typically greater than 40 mmHg.[5] Emergent laser treatment to the iris may prevent blindness.[4]

Macular degeneration 1

Wet macular degeneration should be considered in older people with new distortion of their vision with bleeding in the macula.[6][7]

Macular degeneration 2

Vision can often be regained with prompt eye injections with anti-VEGF agents.[6]

Giant cell arteritis

Giant cell arteritis should be considered in an older person with jaw claudication, temporal pain, and feeling tired.[8] Placing the person on steroids might save both their vision and decrease their risk of stroke.[9] Without treatment a person can quickly go blind in both eyes.[10]


  1. Kim, Christopher (2014). Volume 3, Issue 3, An Issue of Hospital Medicine Clinics, E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. e414. ISBN 9780323311830.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Fraser, S; Steel, D (24 November 2010). "Retinal detachment". BMJ clinical evidence. 2010. PMC 3275330. PMID 21406128.
  3. "Facts About Retinal Detachment". National Eye Institute. October 2009. Archived from the original on 28 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Facts About Glaucoma". National Eye Institute. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  5. Simcock, Peter; Burger, Andre (2015). Fast Facts: Ophthalmology. Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers. p. 25. ISBN 9781908541727.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Facts About Age-Related Macular Degeneration". National Eye Institute. June 2015. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  7. Brown, Thomas Andrew; Shah, Sonali J. (2013). USMLE Step 1 Secrets3: USMLE Step 1 Secrets. Elsevier Health Sciences. p. 576. ISBN 0323085148.
  8. "Giant Cell Arteritis". National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 13 April 2017. Archived from the original on 22 October 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  9. "Giant Cell Arteritis". National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  10. Solomon, Caren G.; Weyand, Cornelia M.; Goronzy, Jörg J. (2014). "Giant-Cell Arteritis and Polymyalgia Rheumatica". New England Journal of Medicine. 371 (1): 50–7. doi:10.1056/NEJMcp1214825. PMC 4277693. PMID 24988557.