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Herniated Cervical Disc Symptoms & Vision

Updated July 19, 2017

The cervical or neck area of the spine is especially vulnerable to damage. It is designed for flexibility and, unlike the thoractic spine below it, it is not stabilised by the rib cage. Herniation or rupture of the soft discs that separate the cervical vertebrae from each other can cause a variety of symptoms above and below the injury.

Damaged Tissue

Nerve, connective tissue, and blood vessels are all involved in the anatomy of the cervical spine. When the vertebral disc ruptures, the soft material that is released can press against these sensitive tissues, causing motor and sensory complications. The adjacent vertebrae also collapse onto each other, potentially pinching nervous tissue and blood vessels under the weight of the head.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Neck mobility may be reduced or painful if a cervical disc is herniated. Other common symptoms include numbness, tingling and pain in the neck and arms due to the compression of nerves. Risk factors that can point toward a diagnosis of a herniated disc include frequent heavy lifting by the patient, smoking or frequent headfirst diving into water.

Visual Symptoms

Rarely, blurred vision can be a symptom of a herniated cervical disk. This is the result of reduced blood flow to the occipital lobe, the part of the brain that controls vision, due to compression of blood vessels between the vertebrae. An "occipital headache" located at the back of the head can occur for the same reason.

Consult a Physician

Visual symptoms may be indicative of serious conditions other than a herniated disc, including cervical spondylosis, spinal tumour or multiple sclerosis. Consult a health care professional if you are experiencing blurred vision, visual fatigue, loss of vision, visual pain or other changes in your vision.

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About the Author

Krista Niece has been writing articles since 2002. As a biomaterials research professional, she has co-authored peer-reviewed publications in "Science," "Biomaterials" and other scientific journals. She has produced literature review summaries for "MRS Bulletin" and written grant proposals. Niece holds a Bachelor of Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Doctor of Philosophy from Northwestern University, both in materials science and engineering.