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Do I have astigmatism?
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Do I have astigmatism?

I was sixteen when I started seeing faint, ghostly images slightly above bright objects in dimly lit rooms, and above street lights and brightly lit signs in the dark. It would come and go, but it never disappeared completely. Sometimes it would seem like it was just one eye involved, but most of the time it was both. So I went to see an optometrist. He didn't do too many tests, didn't even dilate my pupils actually, and said that it was probably nothing because my eyes looked just fine.

I'm 21 now and I still notice the faint ghostly slivers of light above bright objects. About two weeks ago I also noticed that if I wave my hand in a dimly lit room against a dark background, I'll also see a very thin, transparent ghost image following it. It's not a trail or afterimage per say, it's more like a, for lack of a better word, shadow. I don't know if it's always been like this.

I booked an appointment with an ophthalmologist for next month, but in the meantime I decided to take things into my own hands. I conducted a pinhole test, and when I looked through the hole, everything was clear. Even the vague blurriness that followed my hand had disappeared.

So does this mean I have astigmatism?

Thank you so much for your time!  Also, a few relevant facts: I'm not on any medications, I've never experimented with drugs, and when I was 16 my GP suspected that I might have Lyme Disease, so she put me on a month long course of antibiotics just in case. (The latter occurred about a year after I first noticed the ghost images.)
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You probably have a refractive error (nearsighted, farsighted, astigmatism) since the symptoms improve with pinhole effect.  Astigmatism means that the curvature of the cornea is not uniform, and the cornea has more power in one direction than the other.  None of these things is an eye disease, but can be corrected when wearing glasses, or contact lenses if needed.  
3 Comments
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Hi Dr. Fazio,

Thank you SO much for answering my question. I was very concerned because the faint "ghost" following my hand seemed like a symptom of Palinopsia. I found some posts in a Palinopsia forum that seemed to describe the same thing that I was seeing. It's hard to find a legitimate description of the Palinopsia "trailing" phenomenon. It's such a rare condition.

I asked my mom about it, and she said she's been seeing faint ghosts in dim lighting for years, so perhaps I got the astigmatism from her. She hasn't had an eye exam in ages.

I'll let you know what that ophthalmologist says. Thanks again! :-)
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So here's an update for Dr. Fazio and anyone else who may be interested:

The ophthalmologist dimmed the lighting in the room and had me look at a chart. Lo and behold, the chart was slightly doubled. He tried out a few lenses and when he found the one that eliminated the ghosting he diagnosed me with a mild case of myopia. He then prescribed a pair of glasses and expressed surprise at the fact that the machine that tested for refractive error failed to detect my problem.

He didn't know what the ghost-like "shadow" following my hand might be, but suspects that it's some kind of refractive error.  We'll see if the glasses fix the problem.  Interestingly enough, he had never heard of Palinopsia.

I'll post one more update after I receive my glasses.
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