Eyesight problems
April 4, 2009 5:07 PM   Subscribe

My left eye has suddenly been getting worse this past half hour, and I'm getting nervous.

I tried a quick search, but it's gotten hard to read. I was watching tv, and I startedt noticing these blurry lines in left eye. They look somewhat like the spots after looking at something bright, except they quiver, like a tv with a broken signal. At first I saw only one, and now there seem to be two. When I look straight ahead as I type, it obscures my left hand. I feel they are definitely getting bigger. Should I wait before doing something about this? I feel like sudden vision problems are often symptoms of something else.

I'm 18 and live with my parents. The only unusual thing I've done today was 2000 jump ropes (I count) in about 25 minutes, which is more than I've done before.

Gah, I feel like it's gotten bigger since typing this question. And i see now that it is in my right eye a little bit as well, now. I'd appreciate any help!
posted by Corduroy to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get someone to drive you to the emergency room, right now.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:11 PM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, go to the ER. Sudden changes in vision are a symptom of a bunch of things. Get goin'!
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on April 4, 2009

Go the ER. Better safe than sorry.
posted by girlbowler at 5:12 PM on April 4, 2009

I tend to think that people recommend the ER too liberally on the green. This is not one of those cases. Go to the ER. Now.
posted by kimdog at 5:19 PM on April 4, 2009

Could be allergies, could be a specific allergic reaction, could be a virus, could be an insect bite. I would go *near* an ER and bring a friend. Hang out and see how you feel in 30 minutes.
posted by squirrel at 5:20 PM on April 4, 2009

You know, I just read your question again, and I think you should go to the ER right away.
posted by squirrel at 5:21 PM on April 4, 2009

GO TO THE ER RIGHT NOW. These sound like the symptoms of a serious trauma.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:24 PM on April 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you are still reading this, you need to go to the ER.
posted by procrastination at 5:25 PM on April 4, 2009

I'm almost certain you're having a migraine aura- what you describe I've had many dozens of times, the first when I was 18.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:31 PM on April 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm suprised nobody has said the word "migraine" yet -- sounds like the aura phase of an ocular migraine. Previously on Metafilter.

Going to the ER won't hurt, of course, but don't be too worried if the don't do much but put you in a quiet dark room. Be prepared for a headache soon, and then for it to pass within an hour or so.
posted by xil at 5:31 PM on April 4, 2009

And now I find the technical term: Scintillating scotoma.
posted by xil at 5:33 PM on April 4, 2009

hopefully by the time i post this you've already left for the ER but . . . yeah. If your vision is going then something is compressing your nerve, and that is not good.

please update when you can?
posted by lblair at 5:33 PM on April 4, 2009

Yes, go to the ER and get examined. The sooner you get it looked at the better. I had asked about a similar thing here a few month ago that turned out to be CSR (nothing dangerous) but yours sounds more frightening. Get to the hospital and get it looked at!!!!

They'll probably put you right to the front of the line.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:36 PM on April 4, 2009

I concur with possibly a migraine, but hope you've gone to the ER to get it checked out. It does sound like migraines I've had, but safer to have a doctor confirm this.

Hope you're okay, let us know.
posted by OolooKitty at 5:37 PM on April 4, 2009

It's a migraine. That's how mine started when I was 20.

Take tylenol and go hide in the dark.
posted by codswallop at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2009

It might be a migraine, but y'all don't know that. It might be a lot of things and if it's not a migraine, this is precious time.
posted by Miko at 5:39 PM on April 4, 2009

Sounds a lot like the first time I got a migraine. It was scaring the hell out of me, and I was considering going to the ER myself until I described my symptoms to a coworker and was told, "Sounds like a migraine."

It certainly couldn't hurt to go see a doctor, though. You don't want to mess around with possible head/eye trauma.
posted by tomatofruit at 5:43 PM on April 4, 2009

It sounds like the scotoma during my aura, but even if it's that, you should see a doctor. Also, if it's anything like mine, no acetaminophen would touch the pain of the eventual headache...
posted by Pax at 5:49 PM on April 4, 2009

Could be retinal detachment. Go to the ER.
posted by 6:1 at 5:53 PM on April 4, 2009

Probably migraine, if it's in both eyes. Mine are just like this. Go to the ER, but don't freak out.
posted by palliser at 6:30 PM on April 4, 2009

Welcome to the world of migraines. I'm sorry.
posted by sickinthehead at 6:58 PM on April 4, 2009

Corduroy, please update when you are able.
posted by umbĂș at 7:12 PM on April 4, 2009

You're either looking at retinal trauma or neurological migraine aura, and you are unable to distinguish between them without the assistance of a specialist. 23rding going to the ER.

(I've had both for years and still end up in the ER sometimes waiting for the official call. Either way, you'll be fine-- but if it's the retina, you'll need very prompt, experienced care.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:14 PM on April 4, 2009

Well, one decent way of distinguishing a retinal issue and a migraine aura is that the aura is generally quickly followed by a, uh, migraine. If something really weird goes on with my vision and my head starts to really hurt half an hour later I take some pills and try to nap. If something really funky went on with my vision and no headache followed I'd probably head to the doctor ASAP in case of retinal detachment.

It does sound like a migraine aura more than the sudden flood of floaters from a retinal detachment to me, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't go to the doctor post haste just in case.
posted by Justinian at 7:39 PM on April 4, 2009

Jump rope, you say? My girlfriend, who has chronic migraines and neck problems, suffered similar ocular symptoms this morning.

What she was doing the preceding midnight? Spinning Poi for the first time, of course.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 8:05 PM on April 4, 2009

Well, one decent way of distinguishing a retinal issue and a migraine aura is that the aura is generally quickly followed by a, uh, migraine. If something really weird goes on with my vision and my head starts to really hurt half an hour later I take some pills and try to nap. If something really funky went on with my vision and no headache followed I'd probably head to the doctor ASAP in case of retinal detachment.

Actually, you can get painless migraines. My mom gets them -- visual disturbances with no pain. I guess she's "lucky," in a manner of speaking.

Anyway, not to hijack the thread -- just to point out that this isn't always a good way to distinguish between a migraine and a retinal issue.
posted by artemisia at 8:41 PM on April 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the advice/concern, everyone. I laid down after asking this question, and called my parents. They were on their way home, so when they got home we left directly for the ER. Very sorry that I left you all waiting so long for a response, but it was because I took your advice. It went after laying down, and then turned into a migraine (but thankfully never got that bad). I'm supposed to watch some symptoms the next few days, but otherwise I'm okay.

Thanks for the warm welcome to the wonderful world of migraines! I appreciate all the help, really. Thanks.
posted by Corduroy at 8:53 PM on April 4, 2009

Thanks for posting back, and good luck dealing with this.
posted by LarryC at 8:59 PM on April 4, 2009

Glad you're okay! Hopefully you will never get another one.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:27 PM on April 4, 2009

corduroy, I get auras all the time- and for what it's worth I never get really bad headaches afterwards. I do get headaches, but not debilitating ones.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:07 PM on April 4, 2009

Ah, migraines. I was about 20 or 21 when I got hit with my first one, and it landed me in the ER, too. They've gradually gotten better over the years, and I often just get an aura without headache now.

Caffeine can be useful for some people in diverting migraines when you feel one coming on, so that's something to keep in mind in case there's a next time. Glad you're OK!
posted by scody at 11:51 PM on April 4, 2009

Glad you're ok. It doesn't have to mean you'll suffer all the time - I have had only one in my life so far. It was memorable, though.
posted by Miko at 11:55 PM on April 4, 2009

Thanks for updating! And I, like ethnomethodologist, get crazy whacked-out auras and then very little headache, just exhaustion.
posted by palliser at 5:37 AM on April 5, 2009

Also, just as an aside to the discussion upthread, wouldn't retinal detachment be distinguishable from migraine aura in that retinal detachment would affect only one eye? I think Corduroy's experience of the aura spreading to both eyes (because it's a problem in the brain, not the eye) is typical.
posted by palliser at 5:39 AM on April 5, 2009

You may be right that you can get good at telling, but vision and the brain are too important to fuck with, and I think it was pretty risky to tell someone with no history of migraines not to go to the ER. It's good that he did go.

This is a great example of where AskMe can think of things it is likely to be, but we can't serve as the Asker's doctor. At best we are theorizing, and from a distance.

Though it turned out A-OK, it was worth checking out. Had this not been a migraine it could have been a stroke, concussion, or something else serious. Recognizing our limitations as a web community is something we need to be responsible about. In the 99.9% of instances where it's only a migraine, it might look like overreaction. But in the small margin where someone thinks they have a migraine and actually has something serious, leaving it undiagnosed is pretty disastrous. A simple risk prevention calculus says 'probably a migraine, but get a professional opinion.'

Since my brother is blind in one eye and has reduced sight in the other, I'm acutely aware that vision can leave a person pretty quickly, too.
posted by Miko at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2009

Right, I thought he should go to the ER (and said so). I agree that there are many possibilities other than migraine or retinal detachment that can cause vision problems, and some are very serious. My own first migraine aura came with a CT scan, and I have no problem with the ER doctor having ordering that. I just meant to respond to the narrow question of whether this could have been retinal detachment, and I think not, since it affected both eyes. As you said, though, it could have been a bleed in the brain -- very not good, and very time-sensitive.
posted by palliser at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2009

Sure. In a quick search, though, looks like retinal detachment too, can happen in both eyes:
Because the underlying disorder that causes retinal tears may occur in both eyes, your ophthalmologist will want to examine both eyes thoroughly. Your other eye may also have retinal deterioration or other pathology that requires treatment.
posted by Miko at 8:16 AM on April 5, 2009

Well, this doesn't really matter, obviously, but I actually think the passage you quote suggests the opposite -- that the underlying disorder can be in both eyes, but that a detachment will occur in one eye at a time (hence "your other eye"). But IANAD.
posted by palliser at 11:40 AM on April 5, 2009

P. S. Do follow up with a doctor to discuss migraine (medication) treatment and (lifestyle) prevention options; it used to be thought that auras were harmless but they may not be.
posted by wintersweet at 7:59 PM on April 5, 2009

Scotomas of the sort you describe are indeed common features of migraine headaches.

However, they are caused, in migraines, by the optical cortex of the brain pressing against the skull because of swelling due to expansion of blood vessels in the brain.

I think your optical cortex was indeed pressing against your skull, but that the cause was not a migraine.

I think you suffered brain trauma from all that rope-jumping, and that the brain trauma caused your brain to swell and press against your skull, as brain traumas often do, with occasional fatal results.

You were nowhere near fatality, of course, but I would say you should jump rope less or figure out some way of making your impact with the ground much less jarring.
posted by jamjam at 11:52 AM on April 6, 2009

That happened to me about 6 months ago. I went to the ER, thinking I was experiencing a detached retina (it was just in one eye), but after an MRI and other fun things, they decided it was just a scintillating scotoma, sans headache. The expectation was that I'd begin having migraines in the future, but I've not had one yet, nor a recurrence of the not-so-groovy visuals that made me think I was going blind.

So, I guess I'm just chiming in to say that while it may, indeed, have been your welcoming to the world of migraine, it's a very fickle world. It's conceivable that it won't be a significant part of your life after this single instance.
posted by mumkin at 5:09 PM on April 7, 2009

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