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Blindness/Visual Impairment/Dad is Experiencing Colored Lights in Vision

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QUESTION: Dear Dr. Glantzberg,

My dad has been experiencing vision problems the last three days. He has been seeing a gray blind spot in his right peripheral vision, flashing lights like stars in different colors (such as white, blue, green, red--like a Christmas tree), and floaters. The flashing lights are seen in his right peripheral vision, near the grayish blind spot I mentioned above. We believe both eyes are affected because he experiences the blind spot and lights even when the other eye is covered.

Could these symptoms be connected to a Transient Ischemic Attack or a Vitreous Detachment? Or something else?

Some background information: My dad is 67 years old, is near-sighted and has been wearing glasses since he was 20, and never had a stroke or past vitreous detachment.

Thank you very much for your time!

ANSWER: I am not a doctor, but I do have personal experience with retinal issues with symptoms like you describe.  Your father's age and history of nearsightedness both put him at risk for retinal issues like macular degeneration.  If he happens to be diabetic, his risk is even higher.  All of the symptoms you describe can be associated with strain on or damage to the retina.  Blind spots or "curtains" can indicate retinal detachment.  Flashing lights can indicate strain or tension on the retina.  While some amount of floaters are natural for everybody, a sudden increase in the number of floaters can indicate leakage into the eye.  Your father should definitely see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to determine if there is a problem and prevent further damage.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I have been trying to do research on vitreous and retinal detachment and found that the primary symptom is "flashing lights." Are these typically white in color or do they come in lots of different colors? Like red, blue, etc.?

Answer
My family have reported to me that they primarily see white flashes.  However, a quick search online indicates that color is also possible.  Again, I remind you that I am not a doctor, and that you should be seeing a doctor as soon as possible if you or a family member are experiencing these symptoms.

Blindness/Visual Impairment

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Elayne Glantzberg

Expertise

I can answer questions related to Familial Exudative Vitreo-Retinopathy (FEVR), as well as more general questions concerning blindness in children.

Experience

I have five family members with Familial Exudative Vitreo-Retinopathy (FEVR), my husband and four of my six children. My husband and my two youngest children are blind, and my two girls are losing vision. We deal closely with Dr. Michael Trese and his associates in Royal Oak, MI, making trips to see him about once a month for somebody to have surgery or an angiogram or some other exam or procedure. I am familiar with much of the research on FEVR, and can research answers to questions I don't know.

Organizations
I am a member of both the NFB and AFB parents' organizations.

Education/Credentials
I have some time in college.

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