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Why Do My Eyes Unfocus Randomly?

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A woman squinting and leaning in closer towards a document to see its contents better.

Unfocused eyes can be frustrating. It can happen at any time, whether you’re working on a project, reading a book, or even just having a conversation with someone. This is a common eye problem, and many people deal with this every day. While your optometrist can help determine what’s causing your eyes to unfocus, you might be wondering: Why do your eyes unfocus randomly?

Common causes of unfocused eyes include:

  • Refractive error
  • Presbyopia
  • Eye strain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Neurological disorders

Refractive Error

The human eye is complex. To function with ease, light needs to enter through the clear front part of the eye. It bends, or refracts, due to the curve of your eyeball; the light is then focused to a singular point located on your retina.

When everything is shaped properly, your eye can slightly change the shape of its lens and focus at different distances. However, when you have a problem with the shape of your eye, light can’t focus properly. It doesn’t refract right—this is called a refractive error.

If you think you have a refractive error, it’s crucial to visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam. They can recommend a pair of glasses or contact lenses, helping find the right prescription to give you clear vision.


As we age, our eyes naturally lose the ability to focus on close-up objects. This condition, called presbyopia, typically starts around the age of 40 and progressively worsens over time.

There are several signs of presbyopia to watch out for:

  • Needing to hold reading materials further from the eye
  • Difficulty reading small text
  • Eye fatigue
  • Headaches after doing close-up work
  • Difficulty switching focus between close and distant objects

If you’ve recently noticed your eyes unfocusing when switching between distances, you may be dealing with presbyopia. Presbyopia is fairly common, and your optometrist will be able to help. Typically, an optometrist can recommend reading glasses, progressive lenses, or multifocal contact lenses to help you see clearly.

A man using his laptop in a well lit space to prevent eye strain.

Eye Strain

We live in a digital age, and eye strain is becoming more common. When you spend too long staring at a screen, tablet, or phone, your eyes slowly begin to tire out. The tiny muscles that help control the eye become tired, leading to difficulty focusing.

If you’re dealing with unfocused eyes when you spend too long at your desk, you’re likely dealing with eye strain. To prevent this condition, it helps to:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away
  • Optimize your environment so your eyes don’t need to overwork themselves
  • Ensure your screen is at eye level to prevent straining your neck and eyes
  • Increase the font size on your devices so you’re not squinting to read text
  • Keep your room well-lit to prevent glare

This can give your eyes a much-needed break, which may help prevent unfocusing.

Muscle Weakness

Your eyes have several muscles that work together to control eye movement and focus. To properly control your eyes, these muscles need to be equally balanced, working smoothly together in harmony.

However, if there’s an imbalance or weakness in these muscles, your eyes struggle to properly work together. This can lead to them unfocusing.

While this is common in people living with strabismus (crossed eyes) or amblyopia (lazy eye), it can also affect people living without these conditions. Fortunately, you can visit your optometrist to discuss solutions.

Neurological Conditions

Your visual system doesn’t just include your eyes—the brain plays an extremely important role as well. Neurological conditions, like migraines and multiple sclerosis, can affect your brain’s ability to properly process visual information.

This can lead to a problem with how your eyes focus. Look out for other signs of neurological conditions, such as:

  • Sudden changes in vision
  • Frequent headaches
  • Unexplained dizziness
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Sensory changes like numbness

If you’re experiencing any of these alongside your eyes unfocusing, it’s crucial to reach out to a healthcare professional. They’ll be able to run a series of tests to determine whether or not a neurological condition is causing your vision issues—and recommend the right type of treatment if this is the case.

What Is an Eye Emergency?

Normally, randomly unfocusing eyes aren’t a cause for alarm. Instead, they’re just a sign that you should visit your optometrist to discuss solutions.

However, there are some warning signs indicating that you should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Sudden vision loss
  • Severe pain
  • Flashing lights
  • A sudden increase in floaters, the small spots or squiggles that appear in your field of vision

If you notice any of these, seek immediate medical attention. These are signs of eye emergencies like retinal detachment. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen—your eyes are precious, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

What to Do When You Have Vision Problems

If you’re experiencing any irregularities in your vision, reach out to our team at Total Vision Novato. We can examine your eyes and find the cause so you can begin treatment. Don’t wait for your vision to get worse; book an appointment with our team today!

Written by Total Vision

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