There's something wrong with my eyes. Help?
April 16, 2014 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I have been having increasing problems with my vision over the past few years. I've seen an ophthalmologist, a retina specialist, and had some tests done, but they haven't found anything. Do you have any suggestions for how to proceed?

The main problem with my vision is at night - there's a lot of "spillover" from all lights, especially bright lights - sort of a halo effect around the light. I try to avoid driving at night because the lights seem blinding and I can't see well enough for it to be safe.

I also have noticed over the past few months that I have problems with bright lights during the day. If I look over at a sunny window (not direct light, indirect sunlight), then close my eyes or look at a white wall, the image of the sunny window is "burned" into my vision for a little while. I realize that to some extent this is normal, but it's become significantly worse over the past six months or so. As I'm 29, it seems unlikely that this is a normal age related change.

I've seen an optometrist, ophthalmologist and a retina specialist. They've taken pictures of the back of my eyeball. It was suggested that the light spillover / halos are because I am nearsighted, but I am not sure I buy that - my prescription hasn't changed much for a decade and this development happened in the last year or two.

Possibly relevant: I am nearsighted (contacts are -4 and -3.75) and I have very mild astigmatism in one eye - so mild that it cannot be corrected with contacts. This problem exists when wearing contacts or glasses.

You are not my doctor and I am not looking for medical advice. I am looking for ideas of what to pursue with my doctor and/or types of doctors to see.
posted by insectosaurus to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd visit my GP if I were you. A number of medical conditions can affect eyesight, so I'd want to rule all that out.
posted by xingcat at 7:40 AM on April 16, 2014

I'm on my phone, so no links, but the Wiki page on photophobia might give you a starting point.

A little anecdata for you- I have significant vision issues and undergo retinal angiograms on a regular basis. I can ALWAYS 'see' a difference in my vision before the angiogram reveals it. Usually it goes like this; I say, "Doc, my vision is changing" He says, "There's nothing on the angiogram, come back in two weeks" Lo an Behold, in two weeks the angiogram shows a bleed. This is all to say that the docs can't see everything and you're right to continue to search for an answer.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:44 AM on April 16, 2014

I have this. It has gotten worse as I have aged. I am 31. I was unable to make any headway with a diagnosis and I just live with it now. I also have floaters that are getting worse with age and they can't be explained either. I don't have an answer but my eye doctors basically shrugged and said "you are getting old" to me and left it at that. I'll be watching this thread with interest. Do you also suffer from migraines?
posted by sockermom at 7:46 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

This sounds backwards, but I found that the anti-glare coating that they push you to get on glasses lenses really affected the way I saw light. I thought that I had terrible night vision because of the halo effect that you describe. I was really afraid of driving at night, especially a rainy night when you get the reflection off wet surfaces. In daylight, it didn't really bother me, but there was definitely more of a "glow" around light sources.

Then I got a cheap spare pare of glasses and turned down the anti-glare coating, and magically, with these glasses, I have no problem.

I don't wear contacts, so I have no idea if there are options that could cause a similar effect. Maybe not, and the fact that you have the same problem with contacts rules that out. Do you have the same problems with your "naked" eye?
posted by Kriesa at 7:57 AM on April 16, 2014

I'm on a discusion board where the "old fogies" (women 35-45) started discussing our frustrations with night driving. One person said her doctor suggested sunglasses with yellow, polarized lenses for night driving & they really help with the halos around lights.
posted by belladonna at 8:05 AM on April 16, 2014

I also had halos at night with anti glare coatings. But if you have the problem with contacts too I don't see how there could be a connection. Still, If you have it it might be worth getting rid of it.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:06 AM on April 16, 2014

I've been on some short-term medication recently that has caused tiny words on labels to turn into fuzzy bugs. I thought I suddenly had just jumped into middle age and needed reading glasses. Then I found out it's a side effect and should be temporary. If you are on meds you might look into side effects. My farsighted vision also got worse during both of my pregnancies, which led me to discover that hormonal changes can cause vision issues as well. Good luck, OP, sounds frustrating.
posted by Lardmitten at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2014

If you want to talk potential worst-case scenarios, if you're growing anything on the left frontal area of your brain it may affect vision, and 29 is about the right age for youthful development of such things.
posted by mr. digits at 8:45 AM on April 16, 2014

Could you see a neurologist next? I feel like that might be the best next step.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:21 AM on April 16, 2014

Around your age I developed a corneal disease called keratoconus. That age of onset is extremely typical for this disease. One of its most salient features is 'flaring' of lights at night, another is light sensitivity. As a result of these I was rubbing my eyes a lot without really being aware of that, and had frequent low-grade conjunctivis.

The disease is a highly irregular astigmatism, a sort of irregular, quasi-conical bulging of the cornea.

You say you have slight astigmatism so it would seem likely they have looked at this and ruled it out. However, it took a surprisingly long time (about two years) between when I started to develop symptoms and when they finally diagnosed me.

Have you had a corneal topography? It might be worth having one done.
posted by Rumple at 9:23 AM on April 16, 2014

I have that "spillover" effect too, and my ophthalmologist says it's because I'm in the early stage of developing cataracts. Street lamps at night look like dandelions. Have your docs ruled out incipient cataracts?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:24 AM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: To answer some questions:

- I get migraines very rarely.
- I can't tell if I have the same problems without any lenses; my vision is pretty bad.
- I have tried polarized yellow lenses for night driving, and they help some, but not enough that I feel safe driving at night. Polarized sunglasses are enormously helpful during the day, though.
- Medication wise, I'm on Zoloft and Abilify. I've asked doctors about whether they could possibly contribute or cause the problem, and received a definite no, though Dr. Google says that blurred vision is a rare side effect of Abilify.

I very, very much appreciate all the responses and avenues to explore.
posted by insectosaurus at 10:06 AM on April 16, 2014

When I was on an SSRI (generic Prozac) in my mid-twenties, it caused terrible visual disturbances, to the point that I felt like I was hallucinating. Bright lights were the worst, but I also had "tracers" and my peripheral vision basically always looked like a flickering version of this. A few years ago I tried a different SSRI (I don't remember which one) and it didn't my eyes feel all trippy, but it did make bright light unbearable. In both cases, the symptoms went away when I stopped taking the drugs. Do the symptoms track with any changes to your medications?
posted by looli at 11:45 AM on April 16, 2014

Johnny mentioned cataracts; IANYD either, but - I started getting them a couple of years ago. I had several of the symptoms you mention. While cataracts are most common in people 65+, heavy smokers, and diabetics, you can get them at any age. There's no known surefire way to prevent them (other than not smoking and avoiding diabetes. Or not aging. : ) The fix is still a very usual, incredibly effective 20 minute or so surgery, with success rates of like 98%. They 'fix' them by replacing the afflicted lens of your eye with an artificial lens. I still hope that someday they'll figure out how to stop people from ever getting them at all, but we're not there yet. The plus side is that once your crappy lens is replaced with an artificial one, you can never get a cataract in that eye again.

Is this your problem? Maybe. If so, seems weird that nobody you'd seen would have seen them or mentioned it. HOWever - I saw at least 5 eye professionals in a row (first opticians, then opthamologists) before the final one examined me for a few minutes and said "oh yeah. You have cataracts. Some doctors are afraid to tell people they have them because they think the person will freak out, especially if they are younger." I was mid 30's.

So there's that. I had the surgery and it was just like they said; took about 20 minutes, all the crazy haloing is gone from the bad eye. I could pretty much see no problem by the next day. Granted, I got a fixed focal-length lens, so now that eye only sees sharply at one distance and needs correction for the other distances, but that sure beats not seeing AT ALL. (I'm not suggesting you'll become totally blind from a cataract; just that as you age, cataracts tend to eventually worsen, although this is not always the case).
posted by bitterkitten at 12:44 PM on April 16, 2014

Both cataracts and cornea problems can cause glare at night. I would try a different ophthalmologist.
posted by mgrrl at 4:59 PM on April 16, 2014

Don't let them just brush off possible rare side effects like that. Prednisone gives me hallucinations and no one I tried telling that to had ever heard of any such thing before Dr. Google started backing me up.
posted by teremala at 5:58 PM on April 16, 2014

I was in a similar situation to you, with similar symptoms. Eye doctors just shrugged after doing an exam and seeing no problem.
*Soft* contact lenses don't work great with astigmatism, but modern *scleral* hard lenses *do* - they trap fluid and give you essentially a perfectly spherical surface and you then only need near/far sightedness correction - the scleral lens can be set for your default needs (in my case set for reading my computer monitor at arm's length). I then wear ordinary progressive glasses for near work or for driving. Wonderful results.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 4:38 PM on April 17, 2014

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