Can You Really Go Blind After Sex? What We Know

"Love is blind" is often used as a metaphor when referring to a seemingly perfect partner. But science shows that the saying may go beyond the metaphorical to have a literal meaning, too.

Our bodies can do some pretty bizarre things in response to sex. Researchers from a 2017 scientific review published in Sexual Medicine Reviews looked at a series of case studies examining rare and unusual side effects reported in association with having an orgasm. Such side effects included ear pain, panic attacks, laughing, crying, seizures, and sneezing — which for some people, all it takes is merely thinking about sex to prompt a sneeze. What's more, a unique phenomenon known as "sex blindness" may also need to be added to this list. According to a 2016 case study published in the Journal of Glaucoma, a man in his 50s required surgical treatment after repeatedly experiencing temporary vision loss in one eye after having sex. It sounds almost too strange to be true, so we couldn't help but dig into the science behind it.

What might cause blindess after sex

While it may have been your first time hearing about it, sex blindness is not exactly new; rather, cases have been documented for decades. In an early 1995 case study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, researchers outlined the case of six different people ages 24 to 53, who experienced sudden vision loss due to bleeding within the eye that occurred following rigorous sexual activity, with one patient requiring surgical treatment for a retina tear. The study team attributed this hemorrhaging to the rupture of retinal blood vessels during sexual activity, noting that vision often returns once the blood is reabsorbed into the body.

In another 1995 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on the same subject, researchers cited vasospasm as a potential underlying mechanism of sex blindness, in which blood flow to the eye is reduced as circulation towards the genitals increases, leading to blood vessel constriction. Alternatively, some research suggests that sex blindness may also be related to certain health conditions, such as cardiac disease, migraine, or conditions related to the health of our blood, according to 2008 research published in Headache.

How certain STIs may cause blindness

While it won't result in immediate vision loss following sex, the American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that vision loss can occur after sexual intercourse if a person were to contract certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For example, herpes may cause corneal scarring, retinal inflammation, or blindness if the herpes infection were to infiltrate the eyes. Syphilis is another STI that can cause inflammation in the eye, potentially leading to pain, dry eyes, and blurriness. Wearing protection, such as condoms, during sexual intercourse can help reduce the risk of STIs.

We've talked a lot about sex blindness in relation to intercourse with a partner, but can you still go blind after having sex with yourself? While not impossible, experts state that it's highly unlikely. "On a rare occasion, vigorous activity of any kind — including masturbation — can increase blood flow and heart rate and pop a blood vessel (to include in the eye)," certified sex therapist Jenni Skyler told PsychCentral. However, a great deal of force and strength would need to be exerted during masturbation to put one at risk for injury.