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Dr. Dan B.
Dr. Dan B., Board Certified Ophthalmologist
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 3193
Experience:  Eye surgeon experienced in cataracts, glaucoma, retina & neuro-ophthalmology
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I am a 46 year old healthy female. I was running on the treadmill

Resolved Question:

I am a 46 year old healthy female. I was running on the treadmill and begin seeing flashes of light our of I believe my one eye. I got off the treadmill and ate and am no longer seeing it, but it was bad for a couple of minutes. I regularly run so it was not anything new I was doing. It made me very nervous.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Eye
Expert:  Dr. Dan B. replied 3 years ago.

Doctor DanB :

Hello and thanks for your question. I'm here to help you with your concerns.

Doctor DanB :

Have you had any new or increased # XXXXX floating spots or dots in your vision recently? Have you had any recent surgery or trauma to the eye?

Customer :

no, nothing.

Doctor DanB :

Did you have any headache, nausea, light or loud noise sensitivity associated with this?

Customer :

no, I felt completely fine when I first started my workout.

Customer :

it seems to be totally gone now.

Doctor DanB :

Did it seem like little sparkles or quick flashes, or maybe an arc of light?

Customer :

It was more of like a shape like an octogon.

Doctor DanB :

Have you or anyone you're blood related to ever had migraine headaches before?

Customer :

yes two of my sisters get migraine headaches.

Doctor DanB :

Did you get carsick as a child?

Customer :

no

Doctor DanB :

Did this flashing octagon start and build in intensity gradually and did it resolve gradually or was the onset and resolution more sudden without a change in intensity? How long overall do you think it lasted, approximately?

Customer :

it gradually built intensity and then faded. now it is completely gone. I think the whole episode lasted about 5-7 minutes.

Doctor DanB :

Flashing lights can be due to traction on the retina from the vitreous jelly (occupies most of the volume of the back of the eye and is connected to the retina). Some people have spots in their vision that are newly associated with this and that tend to follow the eye movements, floating behind and then catching up to the same position they occupied before—these are called vitreous floaters. These floating spots or "bugs" as some people call them, are tiny pieces of the vitreous jelly that occupies a large amount of the volume of the back of the eye.

This vitreous jelly, when we're born, is the consistency of a jello jiggler (thick jello). As we age it liquifies and becomes more fibrous bands and water. Because of this liquification and the resultant fibrous bands that are left, there becomes more points of traction that the jelly exerts on the back of the eye where it is attached. As we move our eyes in different directions and as our pupils change shape, or even as we rub our eyes, some of these bands can become unattached from the back of the eye and a piece of it floats around, attached still to the rest of the jelly. It is this traction of the vitreous jelly on the retina that can produce these flashes.

These flashes tend to be small, like starbursts and are usually intermittent; they can also appear as an arcing light. One of the most important things to understand about floaters is that the process of a new floater happening can rarely lead to a retinal detachment, so it is important to know the 4 signs of a possible retinal detachment. These are: 1. sudden increase in or new floaters, 2. flashing or arcing lights that are persistent and not going away, 3. a shade/shadow/spot in your vision that you can't see light through, or 4. a large drop in your vision which doesn't improve after a few minutes. For any of these symptoms you must see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Flashing lights can also be due to a migraine. A typical migraine headache starts with shimmering or flashing lights or objects, often times they surround a blurry area or have dots or jaggedly lines associated with them. They tend to progressively increase in intensity and sometimes march across the visual field. Many times this is then accompanied by nausea, irritability, sensitivity to bright lights and/or loud noises, but does not need to be. After the onset of the lights (called scintillating scotomas), the headache typically starts and the light show tends to progressively go away. Many people can have this migraine phenomenon without the headache; it is called an acephalgic migraine. Some people even start having these late in life, or may have had a few much earlier in life that behaved differently and haven't had any for decades and then begin to have them; this is not uncommon. A family history of migraines is usually there as well.


 


Your symptoms sound more consistent with a migraine, but you don’t have many of the features consistent with them. I would suggest just being observant for signs of either one of them as I’ve explained them and if you begin to have these signs that seem more consistent with vitreous traction as I’ve explained then you should go see your eye doctor soon. However, an appointment to see your eye doctor anyway would not be a bad idea as your symptoms are somewhat equivocal. If any of the four signs of a retinal detachment I described above happens then you need to see the eye doctor emergently.


 


Does that help to answer your question? Do you have any other questions I have not answered?

I am happy to be able to help you today. If you would be so kind, please help me get credit for my efforts in answering your questions and press the ACCEPT button for this encounter.

I will also be happy to answer any other questions until you have the information you need.

Any positive feedback and/or bonus you may feel prompted to provide would be welcomed and is appreciated. Thanks for your inquiry!

My opinion is solely informative and does not constitute a formal medical opinion or recommendation. For a formal medical opinion and/or recommendation you must see an eye doctor.

Doctor DanB :

I have to leave my desk for a few minutes but I will be back to continue to answer your questions so I will transfer this encounter to a Q&A format. But I will be back to continue to help you should you need it. You can just respond in that format.

Dr. Dan B., Board Certified Ophthalmologist
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 3193
Experience: Eye surgeon experienced in cataracts, glaucoma, retina & neuro-ophthalmology
Dr. Dan B. and other Eye Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Dan B. replied 3 years ago.
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