Blurred Vision and Antidepressant Use

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If you are experiencing blurred vision on an antidepressant what does this mean? Is it dangerous? Why does it occur?


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, or scratchy or gritty sensations. In addition, some people note a sensitivity to light.

Associated Medications

Blurred vision is most commonly associated with the class of antidepressants known as tricyclic antidepressants. This class of medications includes drugs such as Elavil (amitriptyline), Pamelor (nortriptyline), Norpramin (desipramine), Tofranil (imipramine), Sinequan (doxepin), and others.

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 as well, this blockage can also lead to symptoms in other parts of the body, such as dry mouth and constipation.


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.


Helpful steps that you can take if you are experiencing blurred vision include:

  • 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.
  • Using artificial tears during the day and lubricating ointment at bedtime to relieve the dryness.
  • Using a humidifier.
  • Avoiding 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 which you had to some degree related to environmental allergies.
  • Talking with your doctor about punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are small silicone plugs which 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.
  • Talking with your doctor about changing your dose. 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. Although tricyclics may be the best choice for some, other people may do better with one of the newer medications types, such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These antidepressants affect the acetylcholine receptors in a different way from the tricyclics and tend to have fewer side effects. Your doctor will be able to help you determine if using another type of medication is best for you.

Don't Discontinue Your Medication Without Talking to 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 you are advised by your doctor to make a change. That doesn't mean that you need to wait until your next appointment, and you should call your doctor right away 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 will be able to advise you ​on how best to stop taking, or change, your medication in order to avoid these problems.

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4 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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  2. 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

  3. National Eye Institute. At a Glance: Dry Eye. Updated July 5, 2019.

  4. 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