Light that isn't there
December 1, 2011 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm experiencing strange visual effects on the edge of sleep. Hypnogogic hallucinations or neurological issues?

I am seeing showers and smears of red light (very much like red laser-light scatter) in almost complete darkness; it happens when I am nearly asleep or wake from sleep in a dark room (e.g. after first 90 minutes of sleep). I thus have been lying down for a short time. The effect lasts a few minutes and then goes away.

The first few times it happened I thought I was just seeing red illumination from a neighbor's car backing into the driveway (my room overlooks their driveway). The room is not totally dark; there are 2 windows that are not shaded.

I am not noticing any waking visual disturbances, though I am concerned about this because I have retinopathy of prematurity. Because the red light show only happens when I am nearly asleep, I'm afraid my opthalmologist will think that I'm dreaming.

There is another medical issue: I have a persistent nasal/sinus infection and any swelling could be pushing on my eyes.
posted by bad grammar to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's called a phosphene.
posted by empath at 4:39 PM on December 1, 2011

IMNYD, but I recommend you go see an eye doctor. When I had similar flashes of light, I found out later it was due to optic nerve damage and this was a symptom of the nerve undergoing damage. Later, my eye doctor told me flashes can also occur when there imminent danger of retinal detachment.

Also, there are more benign reasons as described on wikipedia, but, well... It would be good to at least call your eye doctor.
posted by rw at 5:10 PM on December 1, 2011

Don't ever screw around when it comes to your eyes, especially when you already have an issue like retinopathy. Go see a doctor.

How have you been treating your sinus infection? If it's been persistent and you're not getting things resolved to your satisfaction with the doctor(s) you've been seeing, maybe it's time to change.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:00 PM on December 1, 2011

I had similar flashes of light, in which I kept bitching at my husband for leaving his booklight on while I was trying to sleep even though he hadn't. It then lead to cool purple halos around everything before I could get a doctor to believe me. My diagnosis was pressure on my optic nerves caused mostly by sinus pressure on them which seemed to increase when I laid down. I have also had problems with "leaks" in my retina from time to time but no one was able to tell me if the 2 where related. They cleared up after 2 courses of antibiotics and regular netipot use.

But I am not a doctor or your doctor and you should go see a doctor as visual disturbances need to be checked out.
posted by wwax at 7:02 PM on December 1, 2011

Could be photopsia:
posted by neuron at 8:47 PM on December 1, 2011

Thanks, people. The red light effect has been very intermittent, but I am arranging an appointment with my opthalmologist.
posted by bad grammar at 5:43 PM on December 2, 2011

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