Please help me decide when I should go to the doctor about my eyes?
July 15, 2008 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Please help me decide when I should go to the doctor about my eyes?

I am asking this question not because I don't have a doctor, but because I would like to determine how severe this problem might be before I do something crazy like call a doctor in the middle of the night, as it is currently the middle of the night in my time zone.

You know those weird squiggly lights you get in your eyes if you stand up too quickly? For the last few days, and only late at night for some reason, I've been getting those lights near the sides of my eyes if I do something like stand up from a sitting position, turn around quickly, or after I climb up the stairs, but generally from only slightly physically demanding actions.

I've had no other symptoms, no headaches or anything like that. About a week ago I started a low carb diet in where I try to keep around 20 grams a day of carbs, and I'm wondering if that might be what's causing it. I'm also exercising regularly and feeling no ill effects there.

So what's with the lights? Has anyone else experienced something like this? Is it cause for an immediate doctor's visit or do you think I can wait it out until it's convenient for me to go in a few more days? Thanks for any advice.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
Response by poster: Sorry, I wanted to add that it doesn't happen every time I do one of these activities and it tends to happen more often if my head is near a light; I have a number of low fluorescent lights in my rooms.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 6:25 AM on July 15, 2008

I would guess that your blood pressure is a tad low as a result of the diet.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:35 AM on July 15, 2008

It sounds like you have new onset floaters, not associated with headache, eye pain, eye redness, blurry vision, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, weight change, fever, or chills?

IANAD, but it doesn't sound critical enough to warrant a trip to the ER. I'd take the soonest appointment with your ophthalmologist. I would also recommend keeping a symptom diary. Write down when exactly you notice these things, what exactly you're doing when it happens, anything else that happens at the same time, what you do to make it better/worse, and anything else you can think of. Good luck.
posted by ruwan at 6:36 AM on July 15, 2008

I'd agree that it sounds like a drop in blood pressure. This happens to most people from time to time, especially on standing up or making other sudden movements.

The combination of an ultra- low-carb diet and exercise sounds like a fairly extreme change for your body to deal with. The symptoms could well be a result of this. Are you getting enough sodium? Too little can lower your blood pressure.

I'm no doctor; go see one if this persists or you're worried. Or maybe eat more carbohydrate.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:38 AM on July 15, 2008

I had that a while ago (and asked about it here somewhere) and it turned out to be that my low heartbeat frequency was to blame. they did a lot of fun tests, tilt table and all. remembering how freaked out I was, I would suggest you go and see a doc.
posted by krautland at 6:55 AM on July 15, 2008

WARNING! This might not be optical, it could be a precursor to a cranial issue. SEE A NEUROLOGIST, ASAP, and also talk to your primary care physician about it. It might be nothing. In fact, you want it to be nothing. But, there's a worst-case scenario here that need to be treated or ruled out immediately.

Good luck, and I hope that you're in good health, and this is nothing more than an inconvenience.
posted by Citrus at 6:57 AM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: Citrus, with all due respect, whenever a symptom pops up for someone with regards to their head, the first worst case scenario they tend to think of is a neurological issue.

This is why I'm posting on Mefi. Your advice doesn't help, as not only does it not point to anything specific, it doesn't even clearly take a side.

So far I drank some soup with carbs in it to rule out the low-carb theory, and we'll see in a bit here if it works. Thanks for the advice; keep it coming.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 7:33 AM on July 15, 2008

Are these 'dark squigglies', almost as if you're looking through a camera with a hair on the lens (or in some cases, small dark dots floating around which could be mistaken for a gnat flying around your head)?

Or are they bright squigglies/flashes like when you press on your eyes?

If it's the dark, hairlike or spotty squigglies it could be floaters. I have them, they're a pain in the ass and from what I've heard there's nothing you can do about it. It's basically slightly congealed eye fluid that floats around inside your eyes and casts a shadow on your retina. I often notice them after moving around a lot (or just from moving my eyes alot - and it's much more noticeable in bright light situations, either when outside on a sunny day or when I'm on the computer late at night basking in the glow of a bright computer monitor. Gravity pulls the floats to the bottom of your eye, so when you get up and move around, stuff in there starts swishing around.

If it is bright squigglies, often around the periphery of your vision, it could indicate a torn retina, which would definitely require your seeing an eye doctor asap - the longer you let it go the more damage you could do to your eyes. Not saying that's the only thing that causes bright flashes but if this is something that has come on suddenly (as opposed to floaters which you start noticing slowly over a period of time) then it's probably time to see a doctor. (Again, probably not even something worth calling your doctor in the middle of the night or going to the ER for, but try and get in somewhere next day.)
posted by MarkLark at 7:57 AM on July 15, 2008

Sorry. I was thinking of something specific - namely a clot near the optic nerve. I didn't mention it specifically because I didn't want you to think that it's definitively what you had (people tend to do that sort of thing...) It is very unlikely, though. But, at some point soon, I'd say you should have some imaging done.

In the mean time, the more minor things that can cause this are usually blood-pressure related. It can also be a pre-cursor to a "blackout" fainting spell, which has a litany of possible causes - blood sugar (you already did the carbs), drug interaction, infection (bad head colds can black people out)... It's a long list.

Another possibility is PCD, but for that you'd need to have bonked your head recently, which you didn't mention.

As long as you don't have a clot in your head, I'd say that waiting a few days should be no harm, if you take it easy.

I hope this was a little more helpful.
posted by Citrus at 7:58 AM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for clearing that up Citrus.

Actually now that I've become more aware of them I can pinpoint when they happen more easily. Since eating some soup an hour ago, they've stopped occurring when I stand up and sit down, now they mainly occur if there is a bright light behind my head and I'm looking at something which has perpendicular frames, for example the frame on my door or on my shoji windows. It's little bright lines that seem to radiate from the perpendicular lines for a faint second. Not really sure if it's still related to the carbs or not, I had about 28grams in the soup. If it continues tonight, I guess I'll try to go to the doctor soon.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 8:24 AM on July 15, 2008

I used to get the bright squigglies when I stood up too quickly. One time I ignored them and stayed standing up. Then I passed out.

It turned out I had relatively low blood pressure, and very low blood sugar because I often forget to eat meals. These days, I try not to forget meals, and my blood pressure is higher because I'm older and crabbier.

Since this only happens late at night, when you're relaxed and presumably haven't eaten for a while, and you've just changed your diet, I'd guess you're dealing with a less dramatic form of the same thing, and that it's nothing to worry about. Unless you're carrying a chainsaw or infant (or both).

(They're white or yellow, and actively move about in randomly-changing directions, right? Floaters would just sort of hang there and drift.)
posted by ook at 8:25 AM on July 15, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, this isn't floaters, it's like little lights or squiggles. I just ruined my diet by eating 4 delicious senbei crackers.... ^_^ However I still see weird lights. It does strike me as bizarre that it only happens late at night, which hopefully fits better with the diet theory and less with the retinal/neurological problem theories.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2008

Is there any particular reason you don't just make an appointment with your doctor? Then you don't have to worry about freaking out and calling him in the middle of the night.
posted by Justinian at 9:34 AM on July 15, 2008

Find a way to check your blood pressure.
posted by kldickson at 10:00 AM on July 15, 2008

Also, parts of your body operate on a circadian basis.
posted by kldickson at 10:01 AM on July 15, 2008

My previous advice.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:05 AM on July 15, 2008

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