Scintillating Scotoma

I bet you’ve clicked this link and thought – “what on earth is one of those?” Well after much research I discovered that I experienced one last night and felt compulsed to write a quick blog on it!

I had just finished eating my chicken and veg stirfry and consumed a cup of coffee and a small block of dark chocolate. Within minutes of finishing my food and drink there was a strange blur occuring in my eyes. It was as if there was some sleep or some blob right in the centre of each eye. I checked in the mirror and got someone else to check aswell but they couldnt see anything out of the ordinary. The blur and movement became more intense, with the centre clearing and then becoming a bigger ring in my eyes, with it not being as blurry in the centre anymore but sharp lines all flashing every colour of the rainbow! To begin with it reminded me of the ancient computer game Tempest mixed with Geometry Wars!

Closing my eyes I could still vividly see this amazing light show but didn’t know what was actually occurring – was I losing my eye sight? had a drink been spiked? was I having an allergic reaction to something?

Someone else has made an animation to show exactly what the person sees – and this is so accurate! It was like a cross between the Northern Lights and the Hong Kong Symphony of Lights!! Click that start button to play the animation!
Vodpod videos no longer available.

It seems that a scintillating scotoma is also known as an aural migraine, which manifests itself first as this amazing visual display followed by an actual ‘head’ migraine. Luckily I didnt get the headache just the visuals.

A list of things that can trigger an attack are :-
allergic reactions
bright lights
loud noises
certain odours and perfumes
physical or emotional stress
changes in sleep patterns
smoking or exposure to smoke
skipping meals
foods containing tyramine (red wine, aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, and some beans)
monosodium glutamate (MSG)
nitrates (like bacon, hot dogs, and salami)
other foods such as chocolate, nuts, peanut butter, avocado, banana, citrus, onions, dairy products, and fermented or pickled foods

The whole experience lasted the best part of an hour then resided and my vision turned back to normal as it disappeared beyond my periphiral vision! Quite worrying to begin with but in a bizzare way almost quite enjoyable from a visual point of view! Let’s hope it’s a long time before I have another attack!

9 Responses to “Scintillating Scotoma”

  1. Had / still get something similar. Tested [mri – lumber puncture] revealed nothing and doctors thought very mild stroke. Sugget you get it checked

  2. Thanks David – being a typical bloke I just know I won’t go and get it checked!

    Im sure if it happens again though I definately will!

    have you experienced any of the trigger events?


  3. Carol Darlington Reply July 11, 2012 at 10:34

    Hi DJ, Ive had a few of these none followed by headaches, at first i thought it was low blood sugar as they often occured when i hadnt eaten till say 2pm , the area gets smaller and smaller over in my case about 20 mins with no other symptoms. Yes of course its wise to get stuff checked , i admit im a bit blokey that way i never visit doctors. possibly 5 times between ages 45 to 55 ..since then nothing…i run ten miles a day and im physicaly fit 🙂

  4. Well after having a few more of these events I did goto the Doctors and explained to them what had occurred.

    I told him my self-diagnosis and the doctor WASNT aware of this scintillating scotoma condition (i told him to google it and i was certain that was exactly what had occurred)

    He sent me away for some thorough eye tests and they all came back positive and correct. (as expected!)

    I have probably had about 10 episodes of this now and the two trigger events that seem to cause them are having my lunchtime meal later than 14:00 and also exercising at the gym.

    My doctor was fairly useless in this matter and im not compelled to go back!
    But I would recommend you visiting yours to see if you get any better advise – let us all know what happens!


    • Could you let me know what exactly are eye tests which results positive. I have this problem since my childhood. I can see my ophthalmologist and get these done.

      • I have realised that 90% of them occured after exercising at the local gym – where I was told that I was closing my eyes whilst exercising. For the last two months I have intentionally tried to keep my eyes open and I havent suffered any since. I hope it was just something as simple as this that was causing it!


  5. hi!,I love your writing so much! share we communicate extra approximately your post on AOL? I need a specialist in this house to resolve my problem. Maybe that is you! Taking a look forward to see you.

  6. For years I had these visual disturbances and had no idea what caused them. My first experience with one I thought I was having a stroke. About 15 years ago I started having them everyday about the same time. I couldn’t imagine what was happening until I realized that I was also eating Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies every afternoon about that time. I stopped eating them and the SS stopped. I began to document each time I had one and found that within 24 hours of eating an offending food I would have one. Rarely do I have them anymore but I had one today. The only new food that I have added to my diet in the last 48 hours is Organic Valley White Low Fat Low Sodium Cheddar Cheese. I have contacted their company to see if they might help me find the trigger; possibly a “natural” MSG??? Just wonder if anyone else has contributed this to the food they eat.

  7. Hi Carol,

    Its all VERY interesting with loads of possible trigger events! Good to see that you isolated yours down to some cookies – could be a caffeine and msg combo there as the trigger!

    I have only had one in 2014 so far – so have been very lucky. I suppose it’s just one of those things we have to learn to live with and eat properly, regularly and avoid certain trigger foods.

    Im intrigued by this ‘natural MSG’ you mention – does that really exist?


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