Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Is it Serious When You See Flashes of Light and Zigzag Lines?

news you may not know


This Doesn't

Look Quite Right...

Life is good. You're cruising on down the road, your favorite music boosting your spirits and the whole weekend free to do, well... nothing. What could be better?

You and your husband have planned this for a while. A little get away to the hills. A roaring fire, maybe some snow, but mainly just a big dose of quiet. The city forgotten, you drop your bags, kick up the heat and take a look around.

That's when it hits.

A series of bright flashes races across your left eye. You blink to clear your vision, but the lights only intensify. Then, your heart pounding to the same intense beat, the flashes begin to organize themselves in a cruel visual protest, forming well defined zigzag patterns that float toward the outside of your visual field. You feel somewhat faint, possibly from the sudden panic, and that's when the final insult occurs. The zigzags recast themselves again, this time in the form of a medieval fort that bounces across your visual field.

Your quiet weekend explodes, as thoughts of brain tumors, strokes and debilitation flood your mind. You throw your bags back in the car and rush to the nearest emergency room...

Is your head really about to explode? Well...

The most likely explanation for your visual disturbances is what's known as Scintillating Scotoma. This most often occurs prior to the onset of a migraine headache, but may occur without the actual headache - a condition called acephalgic migraine or silent migraine. For those individuals not accustomed to migraines, the visual disturbances are significantly disturbing.

Though these types of visual phenomena may be the result of more serious medical conditions, in most cases they are the manifestation of a benign condition. The disturbances typically disappear after 20 to 30 minutes and, if you suffer no migraine, life is pretty much back to normal. Except, of course, for the lingering doubts about the impending explosion of your cranium.

What should you do?

First, educate yourself. A little time spent reading will most likely calm your immediate fears. However, if you experience persistent visual disturbances, or other more serious symptoms, consider a visit to your family physician or to a neurologist.

In the meantime, now that you're up to speed, turn your car around and enjoy the rest of the weekend. Oh, and stop all the hysterical screaming - the raccoons have filed a complaint...

To learn more about scintillating scotomas, see this from the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. There is a hyperlink in the first section, titled "visual aura of migraine," that gives an excellent video presentation overview of scintillating scotomas.


Blogger sylvia c. said...

Doctors always asked me about "light triggers" when I began seeking treatment for my migraines.

This is not actually the kind that I get, though.

Until they figure out a better way to treat me, I'll be taking blood pressure medicine (though I have low blood pressure).

Seems silly though, with all the info and technology out there.

Thanks for the info!

Sylvia C.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Keough said...

Sylvia, instead of blood pressure medicine why don't you try getting an upper cervical adjustment from your local Chiropractor. It also does wonder's in the migraine department too. I suffer from what is called Aura (zig zag lines that last 30mins or so with a case of clumsiness, no it's not a stroke) I see my Chiropractor and I tell her whats going on and I save myself the huge amount of pain and suffering that would accompany such an ordeal a few hours afterwards. Please seek help with a Chiropractor instead of going to medications as your first resort.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Yourbirthright said...

Thank-you :)
So refreshing to be able to research something on google that is reassuring, not terrifying. Who knew that you can get migraine without a headache!

11:38 AM  

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