Sudden eyesight / vision weirdness. Can I wait for a recurrence before worrying too much?
January 27, 2011 6:24 PM   Subscribe

Sudden eyesight / vision weirdness. Can I wait for a recurrence before worrying too much?

Working late, lots of time in front of a computer and bad office lights. Suddenly, the computer screen starts looking funny -- sort of wavy distortion, like looking through "wavy" air in the summer, but also the feeling that you have right after a flashbulb goes off in your eye, like a dazzled feeling. It lasted for a about 15 minutes. I could see the weird patterns when I closed my eyes. It mainly affected my right eye, but it also seemed to be present in my left eye--though this was hard to tell.

I now have a bit of headache, but nothing terrible. I have had a cold for a couple of days and generally feel run down.

I would really like to sleep it off and not worry about it if it does not happen again. Is this a terrible idea?

I know you are not my doctor and that the most cautious thing to do would be to go to the ER. Thanks
posted by Mid to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I suppose I should have added:

Eyesight is 100% fine now.

During the problem, it I could see people and objects through the distortion (i.e., I was not blind), but the distortion was such that I could not read.
posted by Mid at 6:26 PM on January 27, 2011

Sounds like an ocular migraine. There's been lots of discussion about them here on ask.mefi
posted by belladonna at 6:29 PM on January 27, 2011

(Of course, I am not a doctor so you should talk to yours, all the usual disclaimers, etc.)
posted by belladonna at 6:30 PM on January 27, 2011

I am not your doctor. I had this happen to me once and it was nothing. Something similar happened to my mother and it was the start of serious deterioration in her vision.

My suggestion is that--if you have no stroke symptoms or family history of stroke--you wait an hour and make sure it's not coming back at all. Preferably stay awake until your normal bed time being mindful of your vision. If it doesn't come back, make a doctor's appointment in the morning. If you have any further vision disturbance tonight, go to the ER because it could be retinal detachment.
posted by Frowner at 6:31 PM on January 27, 2011

Sounds just like the ocular (a.k.a. visual) migraines that I have from time to time. But the standard response with anything involving vision or the brain is to get thee to the emergency room. And for good reason.

If you go to the ER with these symptoms, I assure you they will not laugh at you for being silly. They will probably clear you relatively quickly. But isn't it best to let them make that call?

No one WANTS to go to the ER, but that is what they are for.
posted by ErikaB at 6:34 PM on January 27, 2011

Visual disturbances are a common, early sign of strokes, TIAs, cranial bleeds and other life-threatening neurological conditions. Which means that this is really something you shouldn't wait on. The headache and the fact that it seemed to be focussed on one side are also worrying.

Be particularly careful to look for other signs: dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light. Ask somebody who knows you well whether you seem like you're acting or speaking normally. Have them check the grip strength in both your hands, making sure that it is equal. Have them check that your pupils are both reacting equally to light (close one eye, shine a flash light in it, then switch.) Smile, or show your teeth, and make sure that both sides of your mouth pull back equally. None of these are definitive, but if anything comes up amiss or lopsided, it could be an ominous sign. And of course, if the headache worsens or doesn't go away, you need to go the ER, like, yesterday.

That being said: there is no need to panic. It's quite possible --- and given the time frame, likely --- that this is nothing, but you certainly don't want this hanging over you, which is why I would head to the ER now and get it over with.
posted by Tiresias at 6:38 PM on January 27, 2011

A friend of mine went to urgent care with similar symptoms a few months ago. It turned out to be just a visual migraine, as others have discussed above, but the doctors all said it was good that she came in. Neurological disturbances are nothing to mess with.

Also, please don't drive yourself if your vision is going wonky, whether to the ER or just home. Get a ride.
posted by vytae at 7:19 PM on January 27, 2011

I had ocular migraines (which were almost exactly as you described) when I was pregnant.

I was convinced I was having a stroke, and immediately went to the doctor, and ended up seeing an opthamologist as well. Both told me it was probably visual migraines, the appointments were just to rule out anything else going on.

You can find lots of info (and some videos, I believe) by googling "scintillating scotoma."

It is definitely worth getting it checked out. As mentioned above, it's nothing to mess with (but could also be harmless. You need to find out).
posted by Badmichelle at 7:37 PM on January 27, 2011

Thanks for the info, everyone. Wow - this Youtube recreation of a migraine aura is exactly what I was seeing, minus the "flashbulb" effect that I felt. I've never had this before, ever, but it seems like it must be some kind of migraine thing.
posted by Mid at 7:56 PM on January 27, 2011

I've had ocular migraine or migraine aura with the flashbulb effect and bouncing, ping-pong like lights in my vision field. Very strange upsetting event the first time it happened.
posted by tamitang at 8:10 PM on January 27, 2011

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