Running in the fast lane

Why problems with your vision might indicate more than you think about your general health

Woman running

In 2005 I started running seriously and when I say seriously, I mean sticking to training plans, watching what I ate, running a number of half marathons and eventually two full marathons. Fast forward 13 years and in that time my love for running has dissipated a little. Not for any real reason, apart from the normal excuses of lack of time/energy, and putting on a few (ok more than a few) pounds. However, I still haven’t brought myself to leave the Facebook running forum I joined during my ‘serious’ phase. Why? Well, I do still run, although it’s more likely to be 5kms into work, rather than intervals, hills, fartlek etc! I also take pleasure in others’ achievements; some are incredibly impressive, from the Marathon Des Sables to a marathon a month for a year – it really is amazing what the body can do when you put your mind to it.

One forum discussion in the New Year, when everyone throws themselves into their Spring marathon training, really concerned me. The question posed was: “Anyone else suffer from blurred vision after a tough run?” and someone responded to say “All the time, even during a run, usually downhill, I just thought my eyesight was getting worse…. I haven't bothered with opticians, all is fine most of the time, I just put it down to the extreme amount of effort.” 

On reading it, I felt a huge sense of disappointment that the profession’s message of everyone needing a sight test at least every two years is not getting through, and that a ‘sight test’ is much more than just a check of your vision. Even more so, that this person is suffering from sight related issues on every hard run and not getting help from our eye experts, optometrists. 

Below our clinical expert explains why you might get blurry eyesight after a long run, but the most important message we can give you is not to bury your head in the sand. Optometrists are skilled health professionals who continue their education and training throughout their careers in order to provide the very best patient care. Don’t risk losing your sight because you think you don’t have the time for an appointment, or that your sight is fine. There’s an opticians on almost every high street and many people qualify for NHS funded sight tests

Everyone should be getting their sight checked at least every two years. Everyone. 

Advice from our expert, Dr Peter Hampson

Optometrist and AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson offers advice to any keen runners suffering from similar exercise related issues: 

The first thing to say is that a fit and healthy person shouldn’t routinely experience blurred vision every time they run. The best advice if this is happening is to arrange an appointment with your optometrist, if nothing is found then the next step is your GP. There are several things that could cause blurred vision when running that we can’t rule out from the information provided. 

A very simple cause could be that the front of the eye (the cornea) is becoming dry or irritated by sweat or sun cream. This can also be true and may even be worse for wearers of contact lenses. This is generally harmless and should return to normal once the lenses are removed or exercise is ceased. Your optometrist will be able check if your eyes are already dry and that this could be a likely cause of the blurred vision. 

Other causes may include low blood pressure or low blood sugar levels due to the duration or intensity of the exercise. This may vary day to day depending on fatigue levels and what you have eaten to fuel your run. If you are suffering from blurred vision either during or after every run, regardless of fatigue and fuelling, then you should get checked out. In most instances there won’t be anything wrong, but the one piece of advice I give all my patients, is that if your vision changes seek advice. If there is anything seriously wrong, generally the sooner it is found the better the outcome.

Ian BeasleyVicky Vine is the Communications Director at the Association of Optometrists. Vicky joined the AOP in 2014 having previously worked at the British Veterinary Association as Head of Marketing.