Visual question (seeing flashes , swirls, etc)

I had an AVM on the left side of my brain in the occipital lobe area removed last year in March and noticed ever since then I’ve had all sorts of visual disturbances in my blind spots. I’ve been meaning to ask others about it for a while. I told my neurosurgeon about it, but he seemed to think it was anxiety related, and since everything else went so well my last follow up appointment with him ever was back in February this year. I’ve been to the neuro opthamologist too, and they were fine with letting me go back to a normal eye doctor after a few check ups. They also knew about my visual disturbances, but couldn’t come up with an explanation for it either. I made a few ER visits for the vision in my right eye completely whacking out , but CT scans revealed nothing. At one point they did think my retina was detaching when they brought one of the hospitals optometrists in, but it turned out that wasn’t the case.

I never in my life had visual migraines until after my craniotomy, and it turned out the times I went to the ER I finally figured out that was the case after searching the internet , and asking friends who experienced them. Thankfully there’s never any pain, but it is scary to go temporarily blind in my right eye for 30 minutes to an hour, and it seems to have a routine of happening once every 4 months.

I did notice that when I was taking Lexapro (completely killed my anxiety but did not help my depression) I stopped seeing the flashes , swirls, and whatnot in my vision. I almost wonder if that’s because I completely just stopped even focusing on my eyesight? I mean half the time while taking that medication I didn’t even notice my blind spot unless I was sitting on my laptop like now (I cant see my right hand when I type). I just recently got switched to Seroquel because Lexapro was seemingly making things worse with my depression. Seroquel has helped my depression, but now my anxiety is back, and now my visual disturbances are back so I have to assume my neurosurgeon was correct, as he was very well informed by me about my anxiety problems.

I have tried searching everywhere about visual seizures and such , but I can’t find much about them and for a while I was wondering if what I’m seeing is a possibility that I’m experiencing them? Last year when I first went back to work I would see things like faces and such flash in that same corner of my eye at times, then it would just return to the swirls and whatnot. Sometimes it’s more intense then others, and almost always, I see what looks like multicolored snow from a tv screen in that bottom right corner of my eye (part of my blind spot). It’s more noticeable when I’m totally focused on it, or when I’m at work for some reason it seems to intensify (work stresses me out so I wonder if that has something to do with it). Does anyone with occipital lobe AVM’s notice that the more stressed or anxious you are the more intense visual disturbances become?

Hi Toni,
First I had this LONG post but for some reason my computer wasn’t cooperating and I lost it! I just wanted to let you know our AVM is in about the same place. I have not yet had mine treated, but just within the past few years I’ve noticed alot of visual changes. I went to a specialist and they said my eyes were perfectly normal and that I was just seeing floaters. I knew I was seeing more because every day (mostly when I’m on the computer at work) I see this like swirling spot when I look up from my computer-and if I cover my right eye, there is this blind spot that I cannot see-even sitting at a traffic light if I close one eye, I can’t see the stop light! It’s very scary and I also a few times a year experience the visual seizures. I notice them more when I’m really stressed & I try to keep track of when they start & stop…the last one I had with me being partly blinded lasted over an hour. I seriously start shaking and get bad anxiety when this happens, but have been working on trying to just breath and that seems to help a little bit. I hope things get better for you! Please email me if you want to talk!!! I’m sure there is a lot of detail/information I left out about what I’m going through :slight_smile:

Hi Toni,
I have been recently diagnosed with an AVM in my left occipital lobe and I have suffered from visual disturbances (aura’s) since I was about 10 yrs old along with migraines. These aura’s sometimes came pain free but blinding but most times they were an indication a serious migraine was on it’s way; they usually started in the right eye and quite often radiated into the left. In the past 20 years they have become more frequent, but the last 5 years have been quite bad. Three years ago I had a grand mal seizure and since then they have been occurring monthly until January of this year when I had another grand mal seizure and they started occurring a few times a week. I haven’t been able to notice any patterns to show what might be setting off the aura’s e.g. stress, pressure etc. so I just take things day by day.

It actually makes me feel better that I’m not the only one who experiences this problem with my vision! I only get it about 2-3 times a year at the moment & earlier this year I had one so bad that I had like tunnel vision and tons of just crazy flashing lighting lights all over the place but within like 20 minutes it was gone and I only had a mild headache-before it ended though I thought I was having a bleed and called someone to take me to the hospital! Thankfully it wasn’t-and I never got this before until just the last few years, I think it started in about 2007 and I have never before had a seizure either. And most of the times this has happened I’ve been at work and usually go into my boss’s office and she just stares at me and has no idea what’s going on. Getting older is not fun and I hope to see if I can find some other options and possibly have surgery so at least when I know the visual seizure happens it’s not my AVM bleeding! And I may try to research what the difference is from a visual seizure compared to a visual migraine…maybe it has to do with the pain? Ugh.

My AVM is in the left occipital lobe, and I also have experienced the “snow” in my right visual field. Sometimes, it would be followed by a headache. Noticed that drinking some water would help alleviate that visual disturbance. Learned that the brain floats in cerebral fluid within the skull. When the body dehydrates, even a little, it draws from the fluid around the brain, and that may cause some irritation to the area around the AVM (or where it used to be). Have friends who are teachers who complainmed of headaches; told them to drink more water, and now they say that water has helped. (Teachers are prone to not drinking water b/c they are “trapped” in their classrooms and cannot leave for frequent potty breaks.) Certainly check w/ your docs, but it can’t hurt to sip some water.

Hi! I have an AVM on the left side of my scalp and ear but not in the brain and I have had some visual disturbances all my life. It looks a lot like the fuzzy, snowy TV screen you mention but is not in color. Everything I look at looks snowy and I’ve just learned over the years to try to not focus on it but your vision problems sound much worse. There is another support group on line and they list many AVM specialists and they might have one who specializes in eyesight problems. Look on line for VBF (Vascular Birthmarks Foundation) and if you don’t see that kind of specialist listed contact Linda Shannon who originated the foundation and she will try to help you connect with the right doctor. Also, I am not a doctor and am not advising you on anti-depressant meds but the only one that worked for me for anxiety also was Wellbutrin. God bless and don’t let the doctors tell you your symptoms are caused by anxiety–that’s what they always say when they don’t have an answer.

I have swirls and flashes in the right corner of my right eye. almost constantly. It started about ten years ago, and I was told visual seizures and also visual migraines. The AVM I had was small and bled in 1959 when I was a kid. It was in the right occipital lobe, and I lost the vision in both eyes center to left. My eyes are healthy, and so are yours from what you say. Our problems are not optical, they are cortical. I don’t worry about the visual disturbances anymore, and have become so used to it, I only notice it when the environment is very bright.


When I worked in an office and sat at a computer (and before I even knew about my AVM) I had eyeglasses with a tint for glare. I didn’t need a prescription for correction (I still had under 40 eyes–haha), but the eye doc recommended the tint b/c of the office and computer work. It’s worth asking about.

I am glad tinted glasses work for you. I tried them, but can’t tolerate them. I have more trouble with the hemianopia when I go from dark to bright environments, as a lot of people do. Hemianopia can cause the eyes to dilate and to become accustomed to the change in ight. In that time, I have taken many a fall.


Doesn’t fluorescent lighting flicker too? And they are always a sickly color. Not a good combination, in my opinion. I get these visual disturbances too, they are not fun, they come in waves brought on by bright lights. Car headlights are the worst. I think they are migraines, but the neuro doc is testing for focal seizures too.

I live in a rental house and my kitchen light is a round fluorescent one that noticeably flickers at a very fast rate, it’s almost like being under a strobe light. Not conducive for cooking or doing much of anything, it also makes me slightly nauseous. I can’t stand it, so I’ve stopped using it. It also looks very complicated to change so I just never turn it on any more.

Fluorescent lights used to flicker when I worked in offices. I guess they still work the same. I also turn off or don’t use ceiling lights. I like the under the counter lights. Flickering lights can cause seizures in some people, so be careful if you ever had seizures with your AVM. I am a child of the sixties with all the strobe lights in places with dancing and music. I hated them so much. I don’t drive, but when I did, car lights totally made me blind for too long. The new halogen lights on cars seem to me be worse than the older lights.

Take care

I didnt have an occipital lobe avm, mine was cerebellar, but i do have focal issues that nobody could explain. My neurosurgeon also thought it was an anxiety related issue. I had the room spin clockwise on me once and it scared the hell out of me. I thought maybe it had to do with my bleed because I had issues in the ICU before I had my craniotomy, and I had no anxiety then. I dont really have any answers, i just live with feeling slightly off all the time with no explanation. I do know that in times of stress and hormonal moments, it does get worse. Just hang in there. When you find the right medication for your anxiety and depression it may become more tolerable. Xanax and Niacinamide helped me alot. Talking to a neuropsychologist did alot of good, too.

I too have extreme eye flashing and visual Distortion after my AVM surgery. I’m wondering if anyone had this and if it went away.