Patterns and eyes
January 12, 2010 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Often, when I view repeating high-contrast patterns in blinds, clothes, floors, escalators, or other objects I find them to be disconcerting verging on painful. You aren't my doctor, but does this sound familiar at all? Googling has turned up nothing useful.

Guy, mid twenties, had this problem for a long time, imperfect vision with astigmatism and lazy eye. Red/Green Color blind.

I have a doctor, I don't have insurance or enough money to take care of this properly.
posted by TimeDoctor to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Female, in the same boat as you. I always assumed it was normal, and that people who like closely repeated, high contrast patterns semi-enjoyed the pain it dealt them. But perhaps all this time it's been my astigmatism! (That's the only thing, besides imperfect vision, that our eyes seem to have in common)
posted by brambory at 3:34 AM on January 12, 2010

I think it's fairly common - there are certain clothes/bed linen I wouldn't buy knowing that ironing them would be a nightmare!
posted by ceri richard at 4:24 AM on January 12, 2010

I'm astigmatic, female, not color blind and high contrast patterns like white text on a black screen will actually trigger migraines for me these days - oh I'm a lot older - 48 - but wonder if the astigmatism is relevant?
posted by leslies at 5:08 AM on January 12, 2010

I experience this. I have (uncorrected) astigmatism, with otherwise good vision.
posted by biggity at 5:53 AM on January 12, 2010

I also have astigmatism, and it can also trigger a migraine. If I look at a pattern like that for too long, it'll start to shimmer and make my stomach feel queasy.
posted by Ruki at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2010

yes, sometimes Moiré patterns hurt my eyes, especially if I'm tired. My normal vision is 20/20.
posted by scruss at 6:20 AM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: My mom has astigmatism and gets the same sort of thing. Makes sense, I suppose. Astigmatism means your eye has to choose or compromise between focusing either horizontal or vertical lines. If you've got a flat plane of a repeating pattern maybe it makes your eye flip out, trying to figure out how to focus on it.

Astigmatism can also make straight lines appear to bend, move, etc. If one eye is more astigmatic than the other and you've got a lot of parallel lines, it's possible that when your brain stitches together the left and right eye you might get some sort of moire interference pattern. Does it help to close one eye?
posted by paanta at 6:28 AM on January 12, 2010

Female, pretty severe myopia, moderately astigmatic. I get this from certain patterns such as moires, similar to what you described, or from repeating flashing things - as others have mentioned it can trigger a migraine or make me queasy. Dating myself here, but a disco light once caused me to black out.
posted by chez shoes at 6:52 AM on January 12, 2010

Best answer: Might be related to one of these conditions: Photosensitive epilepsy or Bucha effect.

I had similar issues with both strobe lights and patterns when I was a teenager. I seem to have grown out of it for the most part.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:30 AM on January 12, 2010

Oh, and for the record, I don't have astigmatism.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:31 AM on January 12, 2010

I also have astigmatism in one eye. I've never thought of repeating patterns as being painful, but definitely spend a lot of time watching them move or 'shimmer', and totally understand how this could cause a headache. I thought this happened for everyone! The Moiré effect is exactly the visual effect that happens in nearly any pattern if I stare at it for more than a second or two.
posted by supernaturelle at 8:09 AM on January 12, 2010

I'll second the possibility of epilepsy. I have a relative who has trouble driving around tree-lined areas because the rapid light-dark-light-dark of the sunlight through the trees can set off a reaction.

Obviously you're not going into full seizures (whew!) but it could be something related?
posted by carlh at 9:09 AM on January 12, 2010

I'm a migraineur with perfect vision. My husband also gets migraines, but extremely rarely, and he has a lot of astigmatism. I love bold stripes and dots; he can't be in the same room with them. I'm thinking it might be the astigmatism.
posted by KathrynT at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2010

My dad and I both have this problem and both have astigmatism. Our reactions seem related to the degree of astigmatism, his reaction is worse and so are his eyes.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2010

I have that issue - I've assumed all this time it was my epilepsy. However, based on all these comments, I'm starting to wonder if it's my astigmatism.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:55 AM on January 12, 2010

Well, I know two people who react poorly to those kinds of patterns, most notably to weird carpet patterns in office buildings/hospitals. Neither has any kind of mental illness or neurological issue that I am aware of. Both wear glasses, one has astigmatism. I wear glasses too and am always confused when one of them says "oh, this carpet is going to make me sick."
posted by cabingirl at 10:28 AM on January 12, 2010

There was a professor I took three or four classes from in college. He didn't teach in my major but he was a good lecturer. But he would occasionally wear a black and white houndstooth suit. The pattern was fairly small. If he wore just the coat or pants, I could still look at him when he spoke. But if he wore the whole ensemble, I would almost vomit if he moved suddenly to write something on the board. I learned to keep my eyes on my notebook on those days. Years later I became a migraneur, but I don't have astigmatism.
posted by bryon at 7:23 PM on January 12, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers, good to know it is probably just the astigmatism and that it (most likely) isn't a tumor or something.
posted by TimeDoctor at 8:43 PM on January 12, 2010

looking at houndstooth makes me feel sick. When I look at the pattern the color seems unstable, it feels like an aliasing problem, similar to the the problem you see when a video camera films fine detail patterns.
posted by compound eye at 4:19 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Late to the thread, but patterns and stripes give me a nice buzz. This is interesting scientifically.
posted by swooz at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2010

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