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Does anyone else see spots similar to camera flash after-images?

This began three years ago. The blotches in my vision affect each eye but at different times and different places in my field of view. At first, the spot was in my left eye and went away after a month. But then a month later, another one appeared in a different place and stayed for a month or so. The problem has only worsened and it’s not unusual to see one a day – sometimes in both eyes. I can’t concentrate. It’s very distracting and unsettling. I have been to four eye doctors and each one assured me I have nothing to worry about. My eyes are doing really well. I had an MRI last week and I’m happy to say everything is in order. However, this just adds to the mystery of these spots. I often awaken to the spots. For some reason they show up at night. I have also seen these little cell-like strings in my vision moving about for a minute or two. Those often end in a little blotch and eventually go away after a few minutes. I’m not sure if that’s related to the big after-images. Both seem to have begun at the same time: summer of 2014. One doctor is confident these are migraines. He said it without hesitation and I have to believe these are innocuous and nothing to worry about. I’m terrified, however. I must add this: Spring of 2014, I suffered from Shingles on my torso. I was prescribed only three days of acyclovir and the problem cleared after as many days. I cannot help but feel like the Shingles and my eye problems are somehow related. The timing is there and I can’t think of a reason why these events aren’t related. I took one month of acyclovir in October but nothing has really changed. Does anyone out there know what is going on here? Have you or someone you know gone through this?? Please let me know. BTW, I have had migraines with auras for 20 years or so. I get them about once a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I know what those are and I know what floaters are. This is different.


Community Answers
  • AnnaC
    2 months ago

    Hey guys! I’ve been getting these spots in my eyes for the last ten years, I am also a retina nurse. I’ve worked for a retina group for the last 14 years. I’ve had several of the ophthalmologist in the group look at my eyes when I get these bright dots. I too am a migraine sufferer (with aura). I have to tell you that these spots make me very anxious. Sometimes when I experience them, they come and go in just a minute or two, and leave no obvious defect in my vision. Other times, they will leave what is called a scotoma in my vision where the bright spot was. The scotoma means that the vision in that area is permanently affected. Over time the area will fade somewhat, but it can take weeks and weeks and up to several months. I see the affected area as dark when blinking and looking at a white or light background, or bright white when blinking and looking at a dark background. They are noticeable when I look at the edge of something, like a window frame,TV screen, or a computer screen, etc. I have experienced them in both eyes, sometimes multiple times a day. My retina doctors have diagnosed me with cotton wool spots. I started getting them around 2009 when I was 33. I’m now 43 and still getting them more frequently it seems. 98.9% of the time, I get them when I’m active. For example running up the steps, exercising, running the vacuum, bending down and then getting back up again, basically when I’m rushing around. My retina doctors asked me tons of questions, like did my joints ache, had my blood pressure been elevated, had I ever been diagnosed with diabetes. All of my answers were “No.” They sent me to see my primary care physician where I had every lab known to man drawn. I wasn’t anemic. If you’re vitamin B12 deficient and you have pernicious anemia, this can trigger cotton wool spots. I didn’t have lupus, another culprit that can cause cotton wool spots. My cholesterol was slightly elevated but not enough to start treatment per my PCP, my thyroid was a little wonky but again it didn’t warrant treatment. My clotting factors were all normal, no HIV, which can also cause these, and I didn’t have cat scratch which can trigger them. Certain types of cancer can also cause these, as can high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever, the list goes on an on. They are tricky to figure out in otherwise healthy people, but they are worrisome because they are an indicator that something is wrong possibly with circulation or heart problems. They can be an indicator of heart valve disease. I was frustrated and anxious. My retina docs kept telling me it wasn’t normal for me to be getting these as frequently as I was. I know that, and I was frustrated that my PCP just said ” Oh you’re healthy, stop worrying.” But the thing that most PCP’s don’t get is that these aren’t normal. I can’t just write it off as idiopathic (meaning unknown cause), and go on about my life when I can’t even run the vacuum without possible triggering one. I kept saying that it has to be vascular somehow. And then, I started to be my own advocate. I started researching and trying to come up with a possible solution short of having my heart checked out. That’s my next step if what I’m doing now doesn’t help. So then I started thinking back to 2009 when I first started getting these and I was diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency back then. Vitamin D deficiency can cause all kinds of problems. It messes with the cardiovascular system and can cause small vessel disease. I remembered that when I was diagnosed (by a different PCP, which I’m thinking of going back to), and I started taking Vitamin D (5,000 IU a day, liquid is best because it’s fat soluable and better absorbed than a pill. Also, it’s better absorbed with a higher in fat meal) my thyroid righted itself, I felt better, and my cotton wool spots didn’t bother me. I started researching vitamin D deficiency and cotton wool spots and sure enough there was a 2009 study that was done in Rotterdam in which they studied people with diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease which can be brought on by vitamin d deficiency. I live in the northern United Sates, where winter is long and so not much sun on my skin for many months. I drink milk, but not regularly and it is fortified with Vitamin D2, not D3 that can cause these problems. So, I just had my vitamin D level checked and sure enough, I was deficient. I had been feeling off again before I had it checked. Muscle weakness, lethargy, getting winded easily, positional vertigo, anxiety, weight gain, just to name a few. I was advised to start back on the 5,000 IU of vitamin D. I have now been on it just shy of four weeks, and I feel much better. No more vertigo, no more weak feeling or shaky feeling legs, and fingers crossed, my cotton wool spots have lessened and are not as frequent. It will take some time to get my vitamin D levels up to normal, and I’ve been advised since the weather is warming up to get at least 20 minutes of sun on my arms and legs as well as taking the supplement. I will need to have my levels checked again in 6 months. In my research, I found another study in which mice had an improvement in their microvascular damage of their retinas and actually saw better after 6 weeks of vitamin D treatment. They were also vitamin D deficient per the study. I know that I have rambled, and I hope that this is understandable and gives someone some direction and help. In doing this research I have found that 42% of people are vitamin D deficient and it can cause weird symptoms, and often goes unchecked. Be your own advocate. In this day and age as overwhelmed as physicians are, they sometimes blow stuff off without further researching other avenues.

  • Lizardhope
    1 month ago

    (Whoops! Wasn’t finished)

    Anyway, I’m terrified that I will develop more CWS. I assumed they checked for vitamin deficiencies when doing my labs but maybe not- I’ll definitely look into Vitamin D deficiency as a possible cause. Hang in there and thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Allyson.Ellis moderator
    2 months ago

    AnnaC, thank you for sharing your journey with cotton wool spots and your search for treatment options. Having the training and expertise you do must have been a great advantage when researching and pursuing answers. Being your own best advocate is indeed so important! I hope you continue feeling well as you address your vitamin D deficiency. Living in the northern part of the country can be such a challenge physically and emotionally with the lack of sunshine through the winter. I hope the sun begins to emerge more where you are in the coming weeks to add more vitamin D to your body! Wishing you a gentle day. ~Allyson (Migraine.com team)

  • Lizardhope
    1 month ago

    Anna,

    Reading your comment made me feel less alone. I developed a cotton wool spot on Christmas Eve that created a large scotoma in the visual field of my left eye. I’ve had a bunch of tests done since but nothing has turned up any answers. I feel so anxious about this too. My scotoma has slowly improved but I’m teerif

  • Rebecca moderator
    2 years ago

    I think I do, too. In fact, I’ve always thought that the spots were like the flash after a picture is taken. But they don’t last for me.

  • sysad
    2 years ago

    Even though it is hard to explain, I think I get the same thing you do. It is a very tiny speck that looks like a camera flash. Mostly in my left eye, mostly my peripheral. Mine came after I got my first migraine attack a year ago. I’ve had all kinds of tests, MRIs, CAT scan, eye exams, you name it and all normal. Neurologist says migraine related. It does get worse right before an attack. I do have chronic migraines and the speck doesn’t go away. Good luck.

  • harmoni
    2 years ago

    I have one spot in my right eye and two in my left. these have developed over the last 8 years or so. they’re small and mostly only interfere with small print (or visual tests at the optometrist – THAT was a trip!) it’s difficult to “see” them u less i look at something lije a white wall and blink rapidly. otherwise, they just seem like blank spots in my vision. I’ve had auras before (without the headache) these are similar, but they don’t go away.

  • GBinPNW author
    2 years ago

    Are you healthy in general? Are the blank spots blind spots or can you see through them? If I look at a small light in the distance through the spot, I can still see it though slightly opaque. How long has it been since the third spot showed up? I get migraines with aura every so often but at least it goes away after an hour or so. I with these spots went away, too. They’d be much more bearable instead of hanging around.

  • Joleen1966
    2 years ago

    I routinely get the flashes and it’s usually the onset of a major migraine. I suffer with chronic migraines and have for over 30 years. They tested my eyes, MRI, CT scans, spinal taps ….. all came back “normal”. It is frustrating that no one can give us an answer.

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