What is Temporary Blindness?

Daniel Liden

Temporary blindness, also known as fleeting blindness, is a loss of vision that lasts for only a finite period of time. It can be linked to many causes, from bright flashes of light to more serious medical conditions, such as increased pressure on the brain or optic nerves. People often find temporary blindness to be disconcerting, and it can be problematic if its onset is sudden. People who are driving or engaging in other activities requiring vision can place themselves and others in a great deal of danger if their vision is suddenly impaired.

Flash blindness is a form of temporary vision loss caused by the flash of a camera.
Flash blindness is a form of temporary vision loss caused by the flash of a camera.

Flash blindness, or blindness caused by a bright and sudden flash of light, is among the most common forms of temporary blindness. Most people experience it to varying degrees at some point in their lives. The flash of a camera or the transition from a dark room to the bright outdoors can often lead to flash blindness. It is caused when pigments in the retina, which are responsible for perceiving light, become over saturated or bleached. Flashes tend to lead to particularly severe flash blindness at night when the pupils are dilated, allowing a great deal of light into the retinas.

Temporary blindness may occur when transitioning to brightness outside from darkness inside.
Temporary blindness may occur when transitioning to brightness outside from darkness inside.

There are many internal conditions unrelated to light that also can lead to temporary blindness. Some conditions cause a buildup of fluids in the brain; this can lead to pressure that affects nerves and cavities that are essential to vision. Blindness persists until such fluids are removed. In some individuals, migraines can also lead to this symptom.

Temporary blindness can be a serious problem if it occurs while operating a motor vehicle.
Temporary blindness can be a serious problem if it occurs while operating a motor vehicle.

Psychological factors can, in rare cases, cause one to lose vision for a period of time. This tends to occur during times of severe emotional stress. This phenomenon is known as conversion—the brain converts a psychological issue into a physical form.

Increased pressure on the brain can cause temporary blindness.
Increased pressure on the brain can cause temporary blindness.

Some problems of the heart and cardiovascular system can lead to temporary blindness. One such condition is aortic dissection, in which a tear in the wall of the aorta causes blood to flow into the aorta's wall. This changes some properties of the blood that flows to the rest of the body and the brain. As a result, the wrong amount of oxygen reaches the parts of the brain that control vision, so vision is lost.

Pepper spray can cause temporary blindness.
Pepper spray can cause temporary blindness.

There are some devices that, for purposes of defense or attack, are used to deliberately induce temporary blindness. There are some explosives used by military and police forces that are specifically designed to create brilliant flashes of light to blind enemies. Some individuals carry sprays such as pepper spray that, when applied to the eyes of an attacker, induce blindness.

Temporary blindness can be caused by pressure on the optic nerve, the nerve which transmits the signals from the eye to the brain.
Temporary blindness can be caused by pressure on the optic nerve, the nerve which transmits the signals from the eye to the brain.
A detached retina may cause a vision loss that strikes suddenly.
A detached retina may cause a vision loss that strikes suddenly.
Eyeglasses might help with temporary blindness.
Eyeglasses might help with temporary blindness.
In some instances, migraine headaches are responsible for temporary blindness.
In some instances, migraine headaches are responsible for temporary blindness.

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Discussion Comments

anon936548

What are some side effects or problems if youths are temporarily blinded from lights by the police?

bluedolphin

Does anyone here suffer from migraine blindness?

I think treating the migraines is the only way to prevent temporary blindness. What type of treatments are you receiving for the migraines?

literally45

@alisha-- Yes, some medications can cause temporary blindness as a side effect. You need to call your doctor or pharmacist and ask them if it's a possibility with the drug you're on.

I experienced temporary blindness a few times while I was on antidepressant medication. Specifically, it was a serotonin (5HT-3) receptor antagonist. It was reported as a rare side effect but it happened to me, so you never know.

discographer

Can some medications cause temporary blindness?

I had surgery three weeks ago and have been taking some strong pain relievers prescribed to me by my doctor. Yesterday, all of the sudden, I lost my vision. Everything just went dark and I couldn't see for about three minutes and then my vision returned.

It was scary and I've never had this happen to me before. Could it be a side effect of the pain relievers I'm on?

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