What were those weird orange dots in my eyes?
April 16, 2018 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Today I was getting out of the car when I noticed a weird spray of orange dots across the vision in both of my eyes, like a faint tag of spray paint. I've done a quick Pixlr image to try and show what it looked like. The dots moved as I looked around, although they were fixed in a distinct shape. Light affected the color. When my eyes were closed the shape looked green, but when I stood in the kitchen the shape was red. It lasted maybe 5 minutes and then my vision seemed as if it was maybe a little blurry afterwards, although I wasn't sure. There was no pain. What the heck happened?

I've had a lot of floaters for many years, but no increase lately. No headaches, chest pain, blood pressure weirdness, etc., although for the last day or so I've experienced some random pains on the left side of my neck. That seems to be almost gone today, but I still have some occasional pains. (I don't want to oversell it and make it sound like a stroke symptom or something. It could just be a mild muscle strain.) I've had various neurological work-ups in the last few years because of recurring weakness in my legs, and they never found anything wrong with my brain. My doctors think the weakness is related to my back problems. The issue comes and goes but my legs have been OK lately. I wasn't dehydrated or too hungry.

I've been trying to look up other people describing a visual experience like this, but no luck. The closest I've found sounds like a migraine, although I didn't have any flashes and the dots never grew. The "splashy" quality of it made me wonder if I was seeing some burst blood vessel, but this was in the vision of both eyes and the whites of my eyes look normal.

Weirdly enough I'd just come home from a visit to the eye doctor, a follow-up for a stye I had about a month ago, although he didn't really examine me this time or do anything that could have caused this.
posted by Ursula Hitler to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Was it brighter than usual outside? Did you stare at something bright for too long, like headlights or a reflection off windows or water?
posted by Jacen at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2018

my eye doctor puts some kind of orange eye drops in my eyes before looking at them with a blue light. idk what she is looking for but it does sometimes give me orange smears briefly afterwards.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:09 PM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jacen, I should have said that it was bright-ish outside, but I don't remember seeing anything bright enough to cause an after-image like that. PB, my eye doctor didn't put in any drops, shine any lights or even look at my eyes that closely. He just gave me a quick once-over to confirm my stye was pretty much gone.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:12 PM on April 16, 2018

Is it possible you just caught a glare from some reflections as you went indoors? The green/orange thing sounds like standard “looked at something really bright” afterimages. Something like that would easily happen if you, say, caught the sun reflecting off a car grille even if you didn’t consciously register looking at it.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:23 PM on April 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Flashes and an increase in floaters can be symptoms of a retinal tear. I'd call your eye doc and describe what happened.
posted by lovecrafty at 9:24 PM on April 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

I think you may have a problem with your retina. You probably need to see a doctor asap.
posted by JamesBay at 9:33 PM on April 16, 2018

poffin boffin's answer is so perfect, because if you did have the fluorescent dye in your eye, the reason you wouldn't have seen it would be that you weren't exposed to UV light until you were getting out of the car, that I have to conclude there was some extra dried powdered dye on your doctor's hands or gloves or coat that got into your eye when she examined it.

Another indicator that it was real light yout were seeing is that the greenish color in the same shape you saw when you closed your eyes is roughly the complementary color of orange light, and so you were seeing the afterimage.
posted by jamjam at 9:35 PM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sounds like an ocular migraine. Painless but with flashing in the eyesight.
posted by littlewater at 10:28 PM on April 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not to threadsit, but I haven't had an increase in floaters and this wasn't a flash so much as it was a glowing, splatty shape that sat in my vision for a while and then went away. It was also in both eyes, so I'm thinking it wasn't a retinal thing. I will contact the eye doctor to see if I can learn anything more, but unless it happens again I'm unlikely to hurry off to get it looked at. Mostly it creeped me out because I've never experienced anything like it, and because I couldn't find anybody online talking about similar situations.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:31 PM on April 16, 2018

It sounds and looks very very much like a standard afterimage. I'm also voting that a sudden, brief flash of light hit your retina without your registering it. Perhaps someone playing around with a laser, or the aforementioned sunlight off a moving car grille. Especially affecting both eyes at once.
I'm a fairly responsible adult who goes to the doctor about every six months or so, and I wouldn't be sweating if this happened to me.
posted by Krawczak at 11:19 PM on April 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

This happens to me a lot and it just seems to be how my eyes work. It's an after image and it changes color just like you describe. I would just keep an eye on it (no pun intended). If it happens again, call the eye doctor for your peace of mind.
posted by sockermom at 5:37 AM on April 17, 2018

It sounds similar to ocular migraines I have had (sometimes in just one eye, occasionally in both), but unfortunately the symptoms of that are almost identical to the symptoms of retinal damage or detachment. Especially if it hasn't happened before, I'd get it checked out.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:39 AM on April 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

From your description (and the timecourse), it sounds like a standard afterimage from a bright source. The timecourse makes complete sense for photopigment recovery, as does the binocularity of it and the stability across gaze location. I'd bet on glare from a bright source; it wouldn't have taken looking at something really bright for long to give you an afterimage.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:57 AM on April 17, 2018

Was the sun out and bright? If so I would lean heavily towards your eyes very momentarily catching a bit of reflection of the sun from e.g. a chrome bumper, someone else's rear window, etc. If you were thinking about something else at the moment you might not have noticed it, but that blast of light would definitely cause an afterimage just as you describe, orange-ish, and fading after a few minutes. If it was cloudy or dark, perhaps headlights. But your description definitely says "afterimage" to me.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:43 AM on April 17, 2018

The image you posted is blocked for me, but could it be Scintillating Scotoma?
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2018

It sounds like it could be a retinal tear to me, too. The splatty stuff could be blood, and there are few nerves back there on the retina, so it makes sense there was no pain. Floaters are usually a precursor to retinal issues. The binocular imagery is an exception, I'll concede.

I'd get it checked out asap. That's not something to mess around with. An eye doctor should be able to tell pretty quickly, no special tests needed.
posted by Borborygmus at 6:01 PM on April 17, 2018

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