Q. Can excess screen viewing lead to flash blindness kind of visual disturbance?

Answered by
Dr. Manjunath Natarajan
and medically reviewed by Dr.Nithila A
This is a premium question & answer published on Apr 06, 2019

Hello doctor,

I am a 30-year-old male. I work with computer eight hours per day, I was wearing contact lenses for 15 years, glasses for eight years prior to that. I go to yearly checkups with my optician and physician. I eat healthy foods and exercise daily. I have healthy BMI, no known diseases, no known allergies, and no medications.

Eye diseases in my family: Retinal detachment, glaucoma. And my brother had frequent episodes of ocular migraines in his youth with migraine plus visual pattern.

Before five months, I had an episode with my eyes. I was watching TV in the evening, suddenly I could not read the subtitles on the screen. They were blurred. I checked my phone and I could not focus my eyes to read my screen. I felt partially blinded. I also noticed I lacked some part of my viewing field. I looked at my arms while waving them up and down, and I could not see my right hand in my right eye in a certain position at about 3 feet distance. I would summarize it saying I had partial loss of vision in parts of my right eye and I was blinded like by a camera flash in both eyes. This lasted for 20 minutes.

I was worried it might be something serious, so after talking to my doctor I ended up at the hospital. They took an MRI scan, had an eye doctor check my eyes and they used ultrasound on my neck. They could not find anything. I told them early that my younger brother had experienced ocular migraines when he was younger, so the doctors gave me the same diagnoses after the tests could not give any other answers. I will also add that prior to this episode I had for a while dry eyes and polyps on my right eyelid.

I have never had this before. I have always been health conscious, so after this incident, I read a lot about this and implemented several things. I always sleep a minimum of 8 hours. I do not skip meals, eat foods. I have read that these are beneficial for eyes: Meditation and exercise to reduce stress. For the past two weeks, I have been experiencing almost every evening that my eyes are irritated by all screens. It has not been too bad, so it has just been in the back of my mind. But this weekend it got so bad I was blinded like by the flash of a camera for 24 hours straight.

During this time, it was extremely sensitive to any lights, from screens to candles. I went to the general practitioner early today to have his opinion. I woke up with this same blinding flash disturbance and had it while I was at the doctor. He seemed clueless because these symptoms during this past week do not go that well with the diagnosis of ocular migraines that typically last 20 minutes to an hour. Also, I never have migraines. I just have the vision disturbance. My doctor has referred me back to the hospital and the eye doctors there. I wait for them to schedule it.

My question is if you know what this could be and what I can do to limit these episodes. I am at a point now that this disturbs my work and I struggle to find the advice. I need to go forward. The eye doctor at the hospital, my general practitioner and my optician all say screen use has nothing to do with this. But none of them can give me advice on what to do.



Welcome to

I understand your concern. There are not many conditions which can give rise to the feeling of being blinded by a camera flash for 24 hours. A few of the conditions which can give rise to periodic flashes of light are retinal detachment, posterior vitreous detachment, ocular migraine and aura of migraine. None of these conditions can cause a flash of blinding light for 24 hours.

But in case you are referring to episodic blindness, there are several causes like prodromal stages of retinal blood vessel disorder, migraine, Raynaud's disease, intermittent glaucoma and carotid artery stenosis (for which the ultrasound neck is done).

I feel that the cause may be neurological and related to the blood supply. In case you need further information, please send me a scanned copy of your doctors records or tests reports. I will do my best to help you.

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