How do I not know what lights look like?
January 17, 2008 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Possibly the stupidest question ever: what are lights at night supposed to look like? That is, street lamps, stoplights, porch lights, etc.

Lately I've been experiencing some sporadic dizziness, light headedness, and some confusion. Yes, I'm seeing a doctor about it. In fact, I'm seeing her tomorrow.

Tuesday night I realized that lights at night have a glow around them. Like these two pictures, only more pronounced: image1, image2 (note: not my pictures). Before I look like a total fool in person... is this how everyone else sees lights at night?

I know I'm completely overanalyzing things, but so far we haven't found a cause (three blood tests came back fine; no obvious patterns). I'd hate to dismiss something now that could be important.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Looks normal to me. Hope you're ok.
posted by roomwithaview at 9:26 PM on January 17, 2008

That's how I see lights.
posted by nitsuj at 9:29 PM on January 17, 2008

I believe the term for those are halo or aura, The dizziness along with this, though, is indeed a concern.

Then again, when I've been smoking marijuana or drinking leading to dryer eyes, I'll see halos around light objects in the dark. Seeing halos is also a not uncommon side-effect of some kinds of laser eye surgery.
posted by porpoise at 9:29 PM on January 17, 2008

I see lights as more glowy than that when I've been swimming in the chlorinated pool or have had allergies mess with my eyes. Normally, I see a little glow but not a lot.
posted by jessamyn at 9:30 PM on January 17, 2008

I see glowy lights when my glasses are smudged :)

I think it's normal to an extent though. I also hope you're okay.
posted by DMan at 9:31 PM on January 17, 2008

Oh, even if the your general practitioner gives the ok, see if you can get a referal (which in some cases means you have to pay less, depends on your plan, if any) to see an opthamologist. Many diseases of the eye can be treated effectively especially when caught early.
posted by porpoise at 9:32 PM on January 17, 2008

Do you wear glasses? For a while I was seeing that effect and thought I was going blind (or at least low light blind). Then I got new glasses and was magically cured. IE: My old glasses show lights with that halo, my new ones don't. I attribute it to the anti glare coating getting scratched/breaking down on the old set. The weird thing is neither of my optometrists identified my glasses as a potential problem.
posted by Mitheral at 9:34 PM on January 17, 2008

I saw a pronounced ring around light sources after I detached the lens in my right eye. But that was a pretty traumatic experience, and I think you would have mentioned that. Have you considered seeing an ophthalmologist?
posted by lekvar at 9:46 PM on January 17, 2008

Sometimes people get this as a side effect of LASIK surgery.
posted by Enroute at 10:00 PM on January 17, 2008

I see an glow like that. Might be the (small, otherwise not yet a problem) cataract in my eye, though.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:30 PM on January 17, 2008

That kind of glow I'd associated with dilated pupils. I have astigmatism and I've had more of an irregular blur on point-source light, similar to looking through a raindrop.
posted by rhizome at 10:40 PM on January 17, 2008

I see a little glow with my glasses, about the same as in the pictures. I see a far more pronounced glow when wearing contacts, especially if my eyes are dry, which is why I avoid driving at night with my contacts in. If it's really bugging you, I'd definitely see an ophthalmologist.
posted by andeles at 10:41 PM on January 17, 2008

Those look normal to me too (I'm a nearsighted glasses/contacts wearer), though my husband says he doesn't usually see this (He has normal vision). Keep in mind that higher moisture content in the air will increase the amount of "glow" that you see around the light source. Has the weather been more humid than usual the last few days?
posted by platinum at 10:43 PM on January 17, 2008

I see halos with my contacts in, but my glasses, which my sainted mother kept ordering with major glare reduction, show me bleh looking electric fixtures. Without either I see fuzz.
posted by Phalene at 10:54 PM on January 17, 2008

I used to see halos a lot more when I wore glasses. Since I had Lasik, not so much.
posted by tkolar at 10:59 PM on January 17, 2008

I see huge halos around streetlights. I don't wear glasses. I think it has to do with moisture content as platinum says above, although I saw it in New Mexico too and it was pretty dry there.
posted by luriete at 11:21 PM on January 17, 2008

The seems normal to me. Sometimes when I'm tired or have been abusing the computer I get 'starburst' around lights, especially car headlights.
posted by essexjan at 11:34 PM on January 17, 2008

The term is "diffused." That's what lights look like at night. Look how Van Gogh saw lights at night.
posted by wsg at 12:29 AM on January 18, 2008

I see huge halos. My near-sighted eyes live in a very humid place. For me it's very bright lights, close up - I get bigger halos on streetlights than I do on stars, but I get them on both.

I like it. I try to photograph it, with strange results from my camera.
posted by cmyk at 12:41 AM on January 18, 2008

anonymous, it sounds like you already had a blood test.

Halos and blurry vision are commonly noticed symptoms indicating the onset of diabetes. I presume your doctor has already ruled this out. It's probably the single most common reason that someone in the prime of life would suddenly experience the set of symptoms you list, such as dizziness.

If this is what you have, it isn't the end of the world -- diabetes can be controlled through weight loss and nutrition up to a point.
posted by dhartung at 12:55 AM on January 18, 2008

Do you wear contacts? I expressed a concern about this to my ophthalmologist and she pointed out that when my pupils dilate in the dark, they're wider than my contacts, so that's why I get a fuzzy halo around the edges of things in the dark.
posted by srah at 5:30 AM on January 18, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Thanks MeFites! I'll still mention it to my doctor (she's an internist btw), but at least now I know how to present it. To answer some points, in case people were curious:

1) No pot in the last 5 months (and none for a couple years before that). No other drugs, ever. And very little alcohol in the last couple months.

2) No LASIK, but I do wear contacts. I changed pairs Tuesday night and it didn't help. My glasses don't have as large of a halo, but they're also several prescriptions behind (things far away tend to double slightly).

3) No pronounced ring, just the large halo in both eyes. I haven't had any eye trauma recently, that I can recall. I haven't even fallen asleep with my contacts in.

I'll try to remember to post an update when this is all done.
posted by jessamyn at 5:54 AM on January 18, 2008

Have your eyes been checked recently? Has your prescription changed?
I don't know if this will explain anything, but here's an anecdote:
I'm nearsighted, and my right eye is over twice as bad as my left eye. As a kid I had those glow-in-the-dark stars all over my ceiling. One night I was staring at the ceiling, glasses off, and started freaking out because all the stars to my right looked really dim, and I worried if I was losing my vision. A little more staring into space with and without my glasses, and I realized that I was being an idiot: my right eye saw all the stars as so blurry that the stars weren't registering as bright. So I realized that the extent of my nearsightedness could affect the way I saw a light source (duh, I guess, but I was a kid).
posted by bassjump at 6:20 AM on January 18, 2008

Halos around lights depend on several factors. It can be an effect of your eyes if they are dry. It can be an effect of your glasses. It can also be an atmospheric effect. The more humid the air, the bigger halo you will see around lights. Dust in the air will also create a halo effect.

Generally the brain filters out many extraneous details like halos around lights. Many people don't notice them even though they are there. It could be that you just never noticed them before.
posted by JJ86 at 6:30 AM on January 18, 2008

Pronounced halos are a sign of a migraine. If youre getting headaches too you should mention that to your doctor.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2008

I had this exact same problem until I got new glasses a few years ago. The optometrist said that putting a "prism" on the lenses would remove the halo effect. Since then, I see lights just like everyone else claims to...
posted by pixelbaby at 7:06 AM on January 18, 2008

Your photos don't really show halos, at least not the kinds I used to see. Thos pictures look pretty much like regular lights, to me.

When I first started wearing contacts, I used the non-sensitive-eyes wetting solution, which contained thimerosal, a mercury derivative. In addition to having seriously bloodshot eyes, I saw very pronounced halos in rainbow colors. Once I switched to a non-thimerosal wetting solution, the halos went away. Apparently, I was having an allergic reaction, whcih increaded the inter-ocular pressure, which caused the halos. Such halos can also be a sign of glaucoma.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:14 AM on January 18, 2008

Won't somebody mention retinal detachment? Or optic neuritis? At least once?

Sure, those things are rare, but they should be looked for, otherwise they won't be found even in the rare case where they're causing halos and doubling of visual image (which, incidentally, shouldn't be caused by glasses no matter what the prescription is, unless they're bifocals and you're using them wrong.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:08 AM on January 18, 2008

I'd wager the smartest thing to do is to go to your eye doc. :)
posted by janicea at 5:26 PM on January 18, 2008

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