Saturday, April 16, 2005

Searching for the Ground with my Good Eye Closed
About 4 or 5 times a year, my vision goes totally haywire. These incidents last about 20 minutes, but within that time period I'm practically blind. Its not so much that I can't see anything, its just that what I see is extremely distorted. Its like looking through a kaleidoscope or at a Cubist painting - everything is cut up and rearranged out of place. I'll look at someone's face directly, but I can't see their whole face. I'll maybe see an eyeball, or a mouth, or a nose, but its not on the face where it should be - an eyeball might be next to a mouth, or a nose on a forehead, etc. It's really hard to do things or get things done when it happens. I just have to sit there and let the thing run its course.

One way I've described what happens is using an example from Photoshop. When you highlight something, say with the Magic Wand tool or Lasso or something, you get these moving, chasing black lines that indicate to you the selected area(s). The visual distortion I experience is something like that. I see this vibrating distortion within my field of vision. It starts out from a singular point (when I see this it is a warning to me of things to come), and then expands outwards - until it has enveloped everything. It happens in both eyes so its not like I can see out of one eye and let the other one get its act together. This has been happening to me every since about sixth grade or so (that's about as far back as I remember it happening). I didn't think much of it. Sure it was crazy, but it didn't cause me pain and didn't interrupt my life in any meaningful way. I just figured it was something to have to deal with.

Well, during a meeting with my doctor, I mentioned this thing to him. He referred me to get an eye exam and so I went. I sort of wanted to get an eye test anyways, just to see if years of working with computers had affected my eyes (surprisingly my vision remains at an awesome 20/15). I told them about the crazy eye thing and they knew immediately what it was: Ocular Migraine. Apparently, this condition is not uncommon. It is related to migraine headaches and is caused by a disruption of bloodflow to the eyes - this disruption causes the distorted vision. The interesting thing is that Ocular Migraines oftentimes do not come with headaches. (I remember having a headache only once after an incident). The condition is harmless and is triggered by stress, changes in light contrast (this is very much the case for me), and certain compounds in foods (MSG, salt, chocolate, red wine, nuts are some).

This website gives an explanation and an illustration of what I "see" when an Ocular Migraine incident occurs. Needless to say, I was glad to have someone put a name to the ailment and let me know that I had nothing to worry about (I started to believe that maybe the condition was a brain thing or a nerve thing, which started to concern me a little). All in all, it was a worthwhile visit to the doctor.


At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

Interesting. I get the same thing every once in a while too. If I get a headache, it tends to be hours later.

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

funny, I get the same thing after five martinis...

At 7:34 AM, Blogger Granite said...

Hallucinations without drugs!


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