Tuesday Round-up For Friends

2008 August 5

Hello. This is the first of what will be my Tuesday round-up of what’s happened in my presently boring life. It’s mainly for friends and family. Whether it’s of any interest to anyone (or anyone else) I don’t know, but here goes anyway.

If friends and family could read this and give their thoughts privately, I will be grateful. Others may find it interesting (if long) if they have “visual snow or static”.

I’ve booked an appointment to see my GP (family doctor). As usual there’s a week’s waiting list, so it won’t be until Monday until I get to see him. The reason I booked is because I want to report a number of “phenomena”. I want to get them eliminated in the investigation into my “acute insufferable headaches”. This is what I’ve taken to calling the migraines and/or acute severe headaches.

(A recap: I have been diagnosed with hemiplegic migraine or else with migraine with aura. The exact diagnosis depends on which doctor you talk to. These suddenly jumped from around two per month to, at peak, three or four per week. I was then referred to a specialist. I’m not getting on with him well. He seems to be focussing on mobility problems in my neck and shoulders as the cause of headaches. This cause he says is non-neurological. I’m uncertain, but think he thinks there are two conditions. This is something I need to clear up with him the next time I see him.)

In recent weeks I’ve noticed a number of visual and other phenomena that I’m not sure how long I’ve had. I also have a memory problem that I think I’ve tried getting an opinion on from earlier doctors. But I had given up on being listened to. It’s something I have to try to point out again. This is because diagnosis means taking a verbal history from the patient. If I have memory problems, this affects the process. I looked around for a handle on these phenomena. I found that some of them may be related to “persistent migraine aura” or PMA (also called “persistent aura without infarction”). The phenomena I have noticed (most names I made up) are:

  • Visual snow or static. An effect, more visible in dark conditions, which resembles the static on a poorly tuned analogue TV picture. This description and simulations best match the problem I have seeing at night. The effect is present but subtle in normal lighting. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_snow] For simulations of what it looks like for me see: [http://www.thevisioncommunity.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=78&Itemid=171] In normal lighting conditions it’s something like density 8. At night, more like density 35. I can’t judge the flicker rate from the simulation, but 1 seems fair.
  • Fireflies. Short and short-lived very bright squiggly lines that dart about randomly in all directions. They do this across my whole visual field in bright conditions like sunlight. This affects both eyes and against different colour fields I’ve tested. It depends on brightness and not colour. I think this is a normal thing called “blue field entopic phenomenon” or “Scheerer’s phenomenon” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_field_entoptic_phenomenon].
  • Green sparklers. Clusters of bright green spots that randomly flash in my central field of vision. This usually happens on going suddenly from light to dark. Sometimes they persist in sunlight too.
  • Black blotches. So far seen twice, again in bright sunlight, small black “flashes” that resemble boiling mud bubbles but as if seen from some height.
  • Spontaneous afterimages. Exactly like the afterimages everyone sees if someone flashes a bright light or headlight at a distance at night. But these occur in any lighting conditions without a light to cause them. They tend to fade away quicker than normal afterimages too.
  • Pinpoint flashes. Single, rare, instantaneous pin-sized flashes of yellow or blue.
  • Capillary. Tiny, slow moving bright rings that pulse along and that look otherwise just like blood cells moving through a capillary. The distance covered is visually very short, and they last usually less than a second. Brighter events sometimes end with a bright, larger spontaneous afterimage.
  • Aurora. A shimmering monochrome light in my right field that starts at once on changing from light to dark. (Or is always present but invisible in normal lighting.) It then slowly fades away. It is reactivated even without opening my eyes when light reaches the retina. I can’t make out detail because it is in my peripheral vision but I get the impression if I could look directly at it it would resemble a fast changing “northern lights”.
  • Kaleidoscope. Pink-purple and green kaleidoscope patterns that repeat endlessly with gradual changes. It does this across my whole visual field in darkness, starting a few minutes after entering darkness. This is now often obscured by visual snow and is something I’ve had a long time.

I also have tinnitus, which is another common co-symptom of PMA.

Of those I have talked to none has any of these effects. The exception are those diagnosed with visual snow with PMA. Or from another causal neurological condition (most commonly earlier LSD use or MS).

So, although they don’t bother me in themselves, I figure it’s best to report them and get a diagnosis. Even if that diagnosis is that they’re perfectly normal and the people I talked to just hadn’t paid much attention to their own vision! Or they may be medically relevant to the “acute insufferable headaches” problem or symptomatic of something new. But I feel embarrassed going to my doctor with this long a list. How to approach him and not come across as a hypochondriac?

I also want to check whether the back spasms I had about 17-20 years ago were added to my medical record at the time. I suspect they weren’t, given the GP I had back then. That may be relevant to the neck and shoulder “knotting” I have now; even the migraines that started after they stopped.


  1. Hi.

    From the last paragraph I have to ask, although I have mentioned it before, have you been examined by a chiropractor or osteopath? I have experienced dulling and sometimes nausea-inducing headaches for a day or two occasionally from a seemingly innocuous thing as the wrong pillow making the neck and shoulder muscles tight. I’m not saying this could cause a migraine, but if there is mis-alignment of the spinal column, or skeleton and musculature, it could be obscurring diagnosis.

    Have been meaning to respond to your recent email, sorry I’ve not managed it so far but I keep getting side-tracked, reading things like your website! I’ve also been trying to sort through something called Plaxo.com which I inadvertently signed on to and fear all people in my address book were sent an email to snare them in the same manner. Would be interested to know if you had an email ‘from me’.

    Anyway, sounds pretty crap what you go through, so I hope an answer is found soon.

    All the best as always



  2. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Thank you both for your kind comments. Elaine: I will e-mail you soon.

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