Ask the Optician

Odd visual problems that no one seems to determine the cause


I have an odd visual problem for some time and no one seems to be able to give an exact (or even possible) causes of the symptoms, I'm hopping you can help with that?

I'm male, 25 years old non-drinker and light smoker (if there is such a thing) and have good eye sight at the moment, eye checks every 6 months with your self's but these symptoms have arisen between the visits to the opticians and the GP's are unable to shed light on it.

The symptoms are: when looking at things under any light, including sun light and in some dark rooms (this leads me to believe it is not related to the light source of that room) I see flickering, mostly in the peripheral vision but at its worst it effects all vision, it happens most in bright light, and bizarrely when looking at the grain in wood, or vertical or horizontal lines (such as those on radiators, mesh, lines on a page etc). The symptom only appear in both eyes. If I close one eye the vision returns to “normal”. Could this mean that due to my right eye being slightly “weaker” than the left that there is a disturbance in the eyes combined ability to focus on certain things?

I do suffer silent migraines, but as this visual problem is happening daily and I wonder if the two are connected?  The symptoms and effects of the migraines are marked in comparison with the symptoms I describe here?

I have some (3-4) eye floaters at the moment and understand what they are!

I also have begun noticing a marked increase in the frequency and duration of after images of the positive and negative type? I must ask, could these be related?
I understand that as they eye ages its mechanism changes and so there are visual problems and phenomenon that most people would not notice, I on the other hand have a real fear of going blind and so “watch” for issues within the eye.

Should I ask my GP for an MRI scan? To rule out issue behind the eyes structure?
Any help or advice would be fantastic.

Answer Written answer:

The fact that the symptoms you describe are only evident in both eyes, indicates that it is not an eye problem as such but a processing phenomena in the visual cortex of your brain. The fact that you have migraine is interesting because it could be that your symptoms are mild manifestations of this problem. You have become, or are hypersensitive to visual phenomena and if you look for these things you will find these odd effects, that I would suggest are exaggerated by your fear of going blind. And as you say you do realise that most people would not notice these things. The frequency and duration of after images I would again suggest is the result of your hypersensitivity. You know that your eyes are normal and healthy from the frequent eye tests, and therefore my advise would be to relax about the whole thing and try and ignore the phenomena and perhaps accept them as part of your migraine symptoms. An MRI scan should not be undertaken lightly, I don't think this will be of any use, except in perhaps reassuring you that everything appears normal. I hope you find this useful.

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Optician's Biography

Simon Kay BSc(Hons) MCOptom has been a qualified Optometrist for over 35 years, and has a vast experience of almost all aspects of optometry. He joined Specsavers Opticians in 1993 first in Liverpool and for 15 years as a director of Lancaster and Morecambe. He served on many panels and committees whilst a director, including those responsible for IT design and professional advancement. He was regional chairman of the North West directors of Specsavers for over 12 years and as such was involved in almost all aspects of optometry on a business and professional level. He has been involved on the Local Optical Committee for many years and is currently Vice Chairman in his area.
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