Vision Anomaly or Ordinary After-Images?
January 14, 2010 6:17 AM   Subscribe

I can't tell if I'm having very normal vision experiences or if I need to go to the doctor. Specifically, I keep getting an after-image of a dot when I haven't been looking at anything bright.

First off, I've had migraines, and I get blind spots along with them -- this isn't a blind spot like I experience. Blind spots, for me, have always been like negated space, just absolutely nothing there. This isn't like that.

What I'm experiencing now is more like an after-image. In fact, at first, I assumed it was just an after-image of something, until I started seeing it when I was in perfectly dark rooms. It's like a little circle, hardly more than a dot, and (I think) it's right in the middle of my vision. I first noticed it a couple weeks ago. It never lasts for very long, rarely more than a few seconds, and there is never any discomfort or anything that comes along with it. I see it several times a day. It's just a little weird thing that I've been noticing.

What I don't know is if this is something I'm just now noticing because it's weird and new, or if it's normal that I just happened to notice for once and have been concentrating on too much. In other words: does this happen to everyone and I just now realized it, or is this something kinda weird that I should have checked out? My health has been kind of out of whack for a while (digestive issues, allergy issues, asthma-like issues), and I'm starting to worry that I'm too preoccupied with my body these days.

I'm a 26 year old female, and I am near-sighted. Other than blind spots associated with migraines (which I've been to the doctor about, which I have no reason to worry about, and which, as I said, seem totally different from this), I've never had vision issues.

This is anonymous because I'm feeling kind of silly about my health in general these days, and, even if it seems trivial, it feels personal to me.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds pretty normal to me.
posted by dfriedman at 6:18 AM on January 14, 2010

If it's always in the same place in your field of vision, you might consider going to a doctor (preferably an ophthalmologist instead of an optometrist) and have them check it out. Either it'll be something, which they can diagnose and treat, or it'll be nothing, in which case you can just go about your life. When it comes to vision, I'd always err on the side of caution.

My experience: I had an "after-image" in my field of vision for a few days. Went to the campus nurse, who sent me to an optometrist, who sent me to another optometrist, who sent me to a retinologist. It ended up being a cotton-wool spot, which is sometimes caused by underlying health issues; hypertension, diabetes, etc. Mine was apparently just a symptom of nothing, but I'm still glad I got it checked out.
posted by specialagentwebb at 6:32 AM on January 14, 2010

It could be nothing, or it could be an irregularity in your retina or vitreous humour (the jelly in your eye), especially because you're near-sighted. You should get it checked out, because if it is a problem and it gets worse, it could be difficult to treat.
posted by Drexen at 7:33 AM on January 14, 2010

I had a small blind spot that behaved differently than the ones I had with migraines - it persisted for weeks and never progressed into a migraine. I was advised to go see an ophthalmologist as well. After a fun few weeks of lots of doctors visits and exciting tests (I now have proof that I have a brain. yay), they decided that it was just a weird migraine thing. I'm still happy that they checked things out because some of the possibilities are harmless and some unpleasant.

Vision is pretty important and I think that this is worth getting checked out.
posted by sciencegeek at 7:35 AM on January 14, 2010

I had something that sounds similar to this, called Big Blind Spot Syndrome (also known as Acute, Idiopathic Blind Spot Enlargement Syndrome).
It started at my blind spot and eventually grew to be all these different shaped dots that radiated out from it. It was incredibly unnerving. It only happened in one eye and went away over time. It is not well understood, but appears to be viral. They ran a bunch of tests and nothing came up positive, so I think this was a diagnosis by elimination.
As others have mentioned, it could be something else more serious, so please go to a retina specialist.
posted by j at 8:18 AM on January 14, 2010

Obviously the seeing a doctor advice is good, but just as a data point - I've had migraines for nearly 30 years (once I figured out the triggers, I've managed to avoid them mostly), and my blind spots have changed a few times. It is possible that you have a new sort of blind spot. More babbling on the subject: I found the Oliver Sacks _Migraine_ book really useful, and in it I learned that migraines don't necessarily all involve the headache part. (At least, I think this is where I read that...) Given the fact that you're mentioning other health things now, it is possible that this is its own form of migraine, which has also happened to me on occasion. Also, triggers can change over the years, so possibly you have a new trigger (what you said about allergies/asthma makes me think maybe there's a chance this is the case).

I hope you have a doc that knows migraines, though. It's really frustrating when they don't...
posted by magdalenstreetladies at 8:21 AM on January 14, 2010

I don't want to scare you, but I'd encourage you to see an ophthalmologist as soon as you can. I had something similar happen to me last year; it looked like I was seeing the afterimage of a camera flash, but smaller. As it turned out a blood vessel was trying to grow through my retina, which caused the "afterimage." I am extremely nearsighted, and even so it was sort of a strange thing to have happen, but my eye doc said it was good that I came in as quickly as I did. I have a small amount of vision loss in that eye, but if I had waited it could have been worse.

The odds are good that it's nothing to worry about, but if it does happen to be something that needs to be treated, it's better to see someone quickly.
posted by zoetrope at 8:30 AM on January 14, 2010

Ahhh... What you have described was the very first indication for me that my already poor vision was about to get a lot worse. It was about thirteen years ago (I am now 41) that I saw a spot in my vision that was exactly like the after-image from looking at a bright light. Only I hadn't looked at a bright light and it never went away. I obsessed over it. I was constantly blinking to create more contrast so that I could see it. I was worried.

So down the years and after getting a few different opinions from ophthalmologists and retinal specialists, it seems I have what is called Pathological Myopia or Myopic Macular Degeneration.
I have developed very bad Vitreous Floaters, I see tiny blue flashes of light all the time and the center of my field of vision is slightly distorted. I get Scintillating Scotoma from Ocular Migraines. I have many, many other symptoms that I won't go into. Suffice it to say that I exist in a mildly psychedelic state (visually) at all times.

These visual symptoms can be frustrating and exhausting as I try to concentrate on not seeing them. It seems all my eye doctors can offer is sympathy. I live with this condition alone and it can be very depressing at times. There is speculation that I may become legally blind later in life.

However...I cope with it.

What you are seeing may or may not lead to my experience. You may get a lot of "Get it checked out! You are at risk for retinal detachment!" Don't let this scare you.
My advice it to not obsess over it. I try not to. There are much worse things that can happen.

Overall the biggest influence it's had on me is that I must seek employment which offers variety, as eight-hour work days doing nothing but computer use is the worst thing for it.
posted by Oireachtac at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like floaters. I've had them since my teens. For the most part, they're nothing to worry about. But might as well get things checked to be on the safe side.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:34 PM on January 14, 2010

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