Blurred Vision and Antidepressant Use

a woman having her eyes examined by a doctor
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Around 13.2% of American adults take antidepressants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such medications can relieve symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, but they can also produce some side effects as well. Blurred vision can be a possible side effect from taking antidepressants.

If you are experiencing blurry vision, it is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor and determine if it might be due to your antidepressant or something else.

Blurry Vision Symptoms

Blurred vision is a possible antidepressant side effect in which a person becomes unable to see clearly. This has been described in many ways, but most commonly is described as a lack of "sharpness" and clearness to a person's vision.

In addition to a lack of clarity, someone may also experience symptoms as:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Redness of the eye
  • Scratchy or gritty sensations

Some people may also note an increased sensitivity to light.

Other Vision Problems Linked to Antidepressants

One study found that the most commonly reported vision problems that were reported by people taking antidepressants (SSRIs, SSRIs, and serotonin reuptake inhibiting tricyclic antidepressants) were:

  • Blurred vision (reduced visual acuity)
  • Night blindness (inability to see in dark conditions)
  • Vitreous floaters (spots in vision)
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Diplopia (double vision)
  • Palinopsia (persistence of visual phenomena)
  • Visual field defect (loss of part of the normal field of vision)
  • Photopsia (eye floaters or flashes)
  • Visual snow syndrome (flickering dots in vision)

Tricyclic antidepressants, SSRIs, and SNRIs have also been linked to acute angle-closure glaucoma. It is believed that the serotonergic and anticholinergic actions of these antidepressants lead to an ocular emergency.

It results in high pressure inside the eye and the blockage of aqueous fluid from exiting the eye. It can lead to blindness if left untreated.


Blurry vision and dry eyes are the vision problems most reported by people taking antidepressants. However, other more serious problems have been reported.

Antidepressants That Can Cause Blurred Vision

While there are a variety of medications that may contribute to blurred vision, the two classes of antidepressants that are most likely to affect vision are tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Blurred vision is most commonly associated with the class of antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants. This class of medications includes drugs such as:

Tricyclic antidepressants block the receptors in the brain for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. When this receptor is blocked, tear production stops, causing the eyes to become dry (dry eye syndrome). Because there are acetylcholine receptors in other areas of the body, this blockage can also lead to symptoms in other parts of the body, such as dry mouth and constipation.

Due to their tendency to cause side effects, tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed less frequently than in the past.

However, your doctor may still recommend a tricyclic if other types of antidepressants have not produced the desired effects. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about vision issues while taking this medication.


Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) help regulate the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can play a role in improving mood and reducing anxiety. However, people may also experience various other effects while taking SSRI and SNRI medications, including blurry vision.

These medications may impact the eye's pupillary muscles, making it difficult to focus on near objects. It can also contribute to dry eyes, making it more difficult to focus.

SSRIs that may produce this side effect include:

SNRIs that may cause blurry vision include Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine).

SSRI and SNRI medications may also be associated with other eye problems, although these effects appear less common. Acute glaucoma and optic neuropathy have been reported.

If your blurred vision is severe or is accompanied by headache, nausea, vomiting, or eye pain, contact your doctor immediately.

How Long Will Blurred Vision Last?

Blurred vision as a side effect of tricyclic antidepressants usually subsides within a few weeks of treatment, even if you continue to use the medication regularly. This is also true for SSRI and SNRI antidepressants.

One study found that many people who had vision problems while taking SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants continued to experience these effects even after they quit taking the medication. If you are experiencing vision-related symptoms, talk to your doctor about how long these effects might last.

Treatments for Blurred Vision

If you are experiencing blurred vision or other ocular effects, it is important to practice good eye care and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Steps you should take include:

Get an Eye Exam

Getting an eye exam to rule out other causes of blurred vision. There are many causes of blurred vision of which antidepressants are only one. It is very important to make sure you have your eyes examined to rule out any other causes, especially since many of these require timely treatment.

Try Dry Eye Remedies

You may find it helpful to use artificial tears during the day and lubricating ointment at bedtime to relieve the dryness. Using a humidifier may also provide some relief.

Avoid Smoking and Other Irritants/Allergens

Avoid smoking as well as secondhand smoke. In addition to smoke, it is important to manage any other irritants in your environment which may irritate your eyes.

You may wish to talk to an allergist if the side effect of your antidepressant is adding to eye symptoms that you had to some degree related to environmental allergies.

Consider Punctal Plugs

Talk with your doctor about punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are small silicone plugs that are used to block the tear ducts on the inner or outer eyelid. These allow the body to conserve either natural tears, which lubricate the eye, or artificial tears, which you apply.

Lower Your Dose or Switch Antidepressants

You might also consider talking with your doctor about changing the dosage of your antidepressant. If this is not possible, it may be time to switch to a different class of antidepressant.

If you continue to have problems with blurred vision, another option may be to talk with your doctor about changing to a different type of medication. Your doctor can help you determine if using another type of medication is best for you.


In addition to getting an eye exam, you should avoid smoking and other irritants that might cause blurry vision. Dry eye remedies can offer some relief, but you might also consider punctal plugs to minimize the loss of natural or artificial tears. Lowering your dose or switching medications may also be helpful.

Consult Your Doctor

If you are troubled by any side effects that you are experiencing, it is best to continue to take your medication as prescribed until your doctor advises you to make a change. That doesn't mean you need to wait until your next appointment, and you should call your doctor immediately if you are concerned.

Stopping an antidepressant too quickly can lead to what is known as discontinuation syndrome, which can cause you to not feel well. Symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome can include muscle aches, nausea, fatigue, odd sensations, and dizziness.

It is also possible that your depression could return or become worse if you stop taking your medication. Your doctor can advise you ​on how to stop taking or changing your medication to avoid these problems.

In many cases, your doctor may recommend gradually tapering your dose to avoid unwanted withdrawal effects.

A Word From Verywell

Antidepressants may produce side effects, including vision issues. The most common vision-related problems are blurred vision and dry eyes, but other conditions may also occur. Keep an eye on your symptoms and consult your doctor about any concerns you have. These issues can often be managed with dry eye remedies or medication adjustments. You may also notice that these problems lessen as you become accustomed to your medication.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Thiwan S, Drossman DA, Morris CB, et al. Not all side effects associated with tricyclic antidepressant therapy are true side effects. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;7(4):446-51. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2008.11.014

  6. North Metropolitan Health Service. Graylands Hospital Drug Bulletin: Ocular Effects of Serotonin Antidepressants.

  7. Lochhead J. Keep an eye on the SSRI: help avoid possible sight-threatening adverse events. Br J Gen Pract. 2016;66(643):91. doi:10.3399/bjgp16X683641

  8. National Eye Institute. At a Glance: Dry Eye.

  9. Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015;5(6):357-68. doi:10.1177/2045125315612334

By Nancy Schimelpfening
Nancy Schimelpfening, MS is the administrator for the non-profit depression support group Depression Sanctuary. Nancy has a lifetime of experience with depression, experiencing firsthand how devastating this illness can be.