Do I need to do anything about this sunspot?
April 30, 2016 6:45 AM   Subscribe

For the past 6 weeks or so, I've been getting the same prominent "sun spot" in my central visual field whenever I'm exposed to any degree of light. It hasn't changed in size or shape in that time and I'm not having any other vision issues like floaters. I called my opthamologist's office a couple of weeks ago and they didn't seem concerned. You are not my opthamologist, but do I need to be worried?

I call it a sun spot because it's a lot like what happens when you look at a bright light for too long- I don't know the actual term for it. I can see the spot clearly when my eyes are closed- it looks like a small blue/red oval with a black center that's leaning 45 degrees to the right. It's hard to notice when my eyes are open, but if I've been in really bright light (like when I go for a walk outside on a sunny day), it makes that area a little discolored and slightly shimmery for an hour or two. It goes away if I haven't been in the light for a few hours (so it's not there when I wake up in the morning). I don't remember when it started. I don't notice anything weird when looking at an Amsler grid.

Complication- I have a lot of trouble with people touching my eyes, and so I'm generally pretty avoidant of going to the eye doctor. I went last fall and REALLY tried to make myself sit still to let them a glaucoma test, and I had a full-on crying meltdown. I recently moved so I don't have friends in town who I would feel comfortable bringing with me.
posted by deus ex machina to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would be concerned and would try to get seen right away. It could be innocuous, like a regular floater, but if you're suddenly seeing them more, that can be a symptom of a retinal detachment or tear. And another possibility is a macular hole. It may be no big deal but vision is nothing to fool with, so I'd get a second opinion and check it out. If you have the chance to prevent vision loss, do it - discomfort with an eye exam is certainly better than living long-term with vision loss.
posted by Miko at 7:50 AM on April 30, 2016

i think other posts here about anxiety with medical examinations (especially mri) have recommended various tranquillizers. so that my be an option.
posted by andrewcooke at 7:58 AM on April 30, 2016

I am not an ophthalmologist but I work in ophthalmology.

Do you have a history of migraines? 6 weeks is a long time but it's possible to experience, sometimes incredibly elaborate and odd, visual disturbances that ultimately end up being "ocular migraines," which do not cause permanent vision damage.

It doesn't sound like the symptoms of an imminent retinal detachment (sudden increase in floaters and flash/bursts of light, which you should be seen for ASAP). The fact that the Amsler grid looks ok to you is a good sign too but if you see any distortions in the future you should be seen by somebody immediately.

And to potentially save you multiple trips to the MD, see a retina specialist rather than a general ophthalmologist. Getting your pressures checked is important but not necessary for retinal exams, so you could ask to defer that for now. You will need to be dilated though.
posted by AtoBtoA at 8:04 AM on April 30, 2016

I like the advice to see a retina specialist.

On the off-chance this seems familiar: Scintillating scotoma.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2016

I've had one ocular migraine that involved loss of vision but it went away within a few hours. Never had a migraine with aura. Another complication- I'm in an area with generally poor-quality healthcare and few alternatives. If I remember correctly, my ophthalmologist was the only one in my area who took my insurance, but I can double check.
posted by deus ex machina at 8:34 AM on April 30, 2016

My detached retina looked exactly like a sunspot - it was like I looked at a big flash and it wouldn't go away. It was up in the corner though. No floaters or flashing lights at all. HOWEVER, the Amsler grid was really crooked and wiggly when I looked at it and you don't have that. So I have no idea but I would go to the opthamologist and get them to dilate your eye and check it out at least.
posted by artychoke at 9:49 AM on April 30, 2016

Yeah. I would have called the doctor after an hour. You need to call Monday morning. Being able to see is a big deal. You like being able to see. If you need a test and can't sit still, drugs or alternative tests may be available. Or you can suffer through those ten seconds (I hold my toddler down for medical testing regularly and he forgives me before it's over). Sometimes you have to be the parent of yourself, and it sucks. But seeing is a big deal.
posted by Kalmya at 1:21 PM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

IANYD, but I think you should be seen right away as well. Did you talk to an ophthalmologist when you called your ophthalmologist's office? Because a secretary, medical assistant or nurse is probably not the person whose opinion you should rely on in this situation.

I am also generally skeptical of the idea that you should refer yourself to a specialist based on your own internet self-diagnosis. Sometimes this can be a valid idea but in most cases I don't think it helps. I'm not sure it is necessary or will help in this case. Most people have the impression that seeing a specialist has only upsides and can never hurt a situation, but specialists tend to think in silos and have a lower threshold for testing, whereas having a broad differential and not doing elaborate testing is usually a better idea until the basic possibilities are ruled out.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:14 PM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you tell if the 'sunspot' is located on either your left eye or your right eye?

In the past I've been spontaneously hit with something called a "Central Serous Retinopathy" a couple of times. It tends to affect one eye at the time (although the linked article alludes to how this is not always the case). Scared the hell out of me the first time.

The good news is that it's one of these random things that sometimes happens to people, and it goes away by itself. The bad news is that it can take months to clear up completely, and it's a huge pain in the ass to deal with it.

I really cannot tell if this is what you are dealing with or not; I echo the others that you should get a doctor's opinion. But I also offer it as an example of how you can indeed have something odd be going on with your vision, go to the eye doctor, and it's not brain cancer or some monstrous life-threatening diagnosis.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:39 PM on April 30, 2016

I developed a weird coloured spot in one eye: visible when I looked at a white wall. Doctors checked, it's a completely benign thing that lots of people get over thirty - basically acne on my retina, permanent but not harmful.

BUT my opthalmologist verified this by referring me IMMEDIATELY to a specialist.

So: 1 changes to your vision are NOT indicative of TERRIBLE THINGS FOR SURE but 2 only a qualified medical practitioner can tell and it important you see one AS SOON AS POSDIBLE because your sight is really important.
posted by alasdair at 5:19 AM on May 1, 2016

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