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Dr. Frank
Dr. Frank, Board Certified Physician
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 9000
Experience:  Board certified general Adult Neurologist, with experience in experimental neuroimaging and neurodiagnostics.
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I started seeing little sparks and flashes of color, along

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I started seeing little sparks and flashes of color, along with afterimages with no source of light in my vision. They aren't obstructive (although rarely they can be) and they happen 24/7. They're worse in the morning but still continue throughout the day. I went to the Ophthalmologist and he did a thorough examination of my retina and other structures and he told me that all structures were in perfect condition.

The phosphenes (what I'm experiencing) continued to get worse, so I called them, and they said that I'm totally fine and what I'm experiencing is probably an optical migraine.
But I've had a migraine before, and I know what an aura looks like. THIS is not an aura.
The flashes happen too quickly for me to determine if they're in just one eye or both, but the afterimages that come from nowhere are generally only in my left eye, and are never symmetrical with both eyes.

I'm paranoid of having a brain tumor or some sort of occipital lobe infraction, but he said my optic nerve looked great and my eye pressure was perfect.
To break down what I see:

Sparks/Sparkles/Flashes: Usually I'll see a white dot, which will fade to a black dot. Very small, almost a pinpoint. Will disappear within five seconds. Some are even faster than that. They appear throughout the day (perhaps 1 a minute) at any location in my vision.
Afterimage without source: Just like looking at a bright light, I'll have an afterimage
appear in my vision which will last a good 5 to 10 minutes before fading away. I've only noticed them in my left eye.

Bright blue 'gas burner' blob: I'll see a bright blue blob in the left side of my vision (haven't been able to determine if it's one eye or both). It looks like the light from a blue flame on a gas burner stove. It sort of reverberates before disappearing and usually lasts about 5 seconds. Happens about 2-3 times a day.

I get afterimages really easily. My vision becomes 'dirty' with the afterimage of what I'm looking at pretty easily. I'll stare at a yellow line in a parking lot for only a few seconds, and then I'll have a blue line in my vision for about 5-6 seconds afterwards.
Please help, the anxiety from this is driving me insane.

I'm also feeling 'dumber' lately. Like I'm not totally functional mentally. I'm still able to do function normally., but I'll find myself forgetting things, forgetting words, not hearing people, and just generally feel fatigued. I just feel 'off'
Hi. Welcome to Just Answer
I am an adult neurologist and will try to answer your question. I can maybe help a little, but I would say at the start that you need a neurologist to examen you, as there may be issues that I cannot diagnose here online. Some of the features you describe, like staring at a yellow line, and then seeing blue, is an "afterimage" from your retina, having overstimulated the ganglion cells in that particular region of the retina. It is based on the principle of "center/surround" inhibition that goes on in your five layers of retinal neurons, so that is normal, and not to worry. The phosphors you describe suggest activation of the occipital lobe neurons, the primarily (V1) neurons, that can be from a variety of causes, not necessarily pathological causes. As you have a history of migraine, you have a very activated occipital lobe. There are now ways to measure, using optical spectroscopy, the electrical cortical signals which pass in waves along your occipital lobe as part of migraine. here is just one paper on that subject, FYI
But you need someone to check your visual fields for cortical field cuts ( I assume the ophthy guy did that) and you should see a neurologist for an exam, and maybe an MRI to look at you occipital lobes, to exclude an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) or some vascular anomaly. I would assume that at age 23, your dumb and dumber symptoms are related to stress/anxiety from all this going on in your life, but I can only guess from here, so get back to me on that. Dr Frank T
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Does anything say 'brain tumor' to you?


Are you concerned with these symptoms, or would you guess that they're probably just anomalous.

It could be a brain tumor, you could have a low grade glioma in your optic tract on the way to the occipital lobe, or any retrochiasmatic lesion (after the optic chiasm) based on your history. But in neurology, common things are common, and with migraine, and no severe tension headache, nausea/vomiting, a positional component to the headpain, worse upon awakening, etc. It is unlikely to be a rapidly expanding brain lesion. Much more common to be a very anxious young man with migraine and worry (classically about a brain tumor). How much more likely? Well doing this for 23 years, I would say 20 to 1 odds. But I cannot diagnose you online, you still need a neurologist to look at you, based on your history, to get an MRI if there are findings on your exam, etc. I hope that helps DR Frank T.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Can anxiety/stress cause my visual symptoms? I've had health anxiety for several years now.

HI. If you look at that paper, it explains the relationship. The general theme is that anxiety can change your serum pH, by causing a respiratory alkalosis, you exhale too much CO2, and the drops your vascular imput in the brain (arteriolar vasoconstiction) which can activate occipital cortical neurons and can be measured with infrared optical spectroscopy. So the answer to your question is certainly, it has been done in labs, and there is a well known mechanism for this to occur.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

How soon should I get an appointment?


With blue cross/blue shield, what are the estimated costs of an exam?

you may have to wait for an appointment with a neurologist, there is no urgency based on your history. In Ny, a BC/BS copay is $25
Dr. Frank and other Neurology Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Finally, are all brain tumors lethal?


I hear that if you get a brain tumor of any kind, you're pretty much dead.


If not, how common are the nearly incurable ones?


Also, my friend has a pituitary tumor that was giving her migraines. I'm concerned for her. What kinds of pituitary tumors are especially difficult to treat?


Finally (and I'll be rating you excellent after this) have there been any reported increases in the number of brain tumors reported on the west coast of the united states after the Fukashima incident (NPP melt down)

All brain tumors are not lethal. The most common brain tumor (Glioblastoma multiform) is also the most lethal. That is not true about brain tumor and you are dead, far from it.
pituitary tumors that reach above the pituitary stalk to involve the hypothalamus are hard to treat. microadenomas of the pituitary are the easiest to treat (they are also the most common)
I have not heard of any increase in brain tumors after the radiation incident in Japan. It has not hit the medical literature as I know.
Good luck to you Dr Frank t
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

She says it's 'prolactianoma'. She's on hormones right now. I think.

HI. so prolactinoma is the most common type of pituitary tumor, and depending on size, can be a microadenoma, or a macroadenoma, but they are usually easier to remove than other types of tumors of the pituitary gland. here is a webpage on the subject. good luck to you dr frank T
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Final bit of info.


The visual anomalies happen far more often in the morning.

Do you have signs of anxiety/depression? One of the features is EMA, early morning awakening, is that happening, are you waking is a sweat?? This is an online service, so it is difficult to give you focused answers, but if it is worse in the morning, I would look for metabolic factors, such as hypoglycemia as a cause of these sparkles, go to the drug store, get some dextrostix, or a blood glucose meter, and check you glucose, your blood pressure, and your heart rate, when this is happening. If this were a tumor, you might expect regional swelling to be higher in the morning, and if in the occip. lobe you might have more sparkles. But that is again more rare, and without any other neurological problems, unlikely. Dr Frank T
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

No. I'm never woken up early by any symptoms, no night sweats. Once in a blue moon I'll wake up having a panic attack, but that will maybe happen once a month and only after a nap. Also, when that happens my brain doesn't 'work right' for maybe 30 minutes afterwards, even though I'm aware of my brain not working right.


I do have very obvious signs of anxiety yes. Had a severe panic attack every day during the summer time, but I've gotten control over them.


Additionally, I can't drink any caffeine without getting severe anxiety. A cup of coffee would destroy me.



I've asked several other questions on JustAnswer regarding other things, might be worth it to check those out to get a good recent history.