What was this visual artifact I saw after hitting my head?

This isn’t asking for medical advice, as the incident happened a long time ago, and I hope there’s a factual answer; but if appropriate, I’m OK with this being sent over to IMHO.

So, basically, when I was a young boy, I would sometimes pass out after getting up too quickly. One time, I hit my head on a protruding edge of a cupboard, causing my ear to swell to triple its normal size in the days after.

But the strangest thing was the fact that immediately after regaining consciousness, I saw an oblong circle of colors (and I mean just a circle, not a disk)—mostly reds and blues, the sorts of colors you see when pressing your eyes shut real hard—rotating before my eyes (I want to say only before the left one). It slowly increased in diameter, eventually leaving my field of view.

The whole thing lasted for, I don’t know, maybe a quarter of an hour? Half hour?

Now, a problem with this is that it’s been a while, and memory isn’t as reliable as we think it is. I do believe to have a very clear memory of the whole event (sans the fainting bit), but that’s not always a reliable indication.

So, does this sound like something that could occur after (minor) head trauma? If so, what’s the physiology behind it?

Seeing stars! I was cold-cocked once by a man trying to mug my MIL, I literally saw stars, they were multi-colored and bright. I never lost consciousness, though!

Sounds like an ocular migraine (I get them very occasionally), although I don’t know if they’re a trauma response. Did it look a little like this: http://blogd.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/scotoma.jpg

I came in here to say the same thing; the OP’s description sounds a lot like a scintillating scotoma.

Yes, ocular migraine. I get them all the time without having to bang my head.

It sounds like an indication of concussion. Perhaps a dr. can confirm that.

Yep, I had a pounding head ache, for 2 days. No concussion though.

I can’t answer your medical questions, but I can confirm you’re not crazy: once I had heat stroke to the point where I passed-out and I remember seeing an image very similar to that.

The headache afterwards lasted for a solid 48 hours, even after it was treated.

No, that sounds like a mild concussion.

Both times I suffered a concussion (once age five, the other age 13), I distinctly remember the world turning green and a horrible chemical smell that lingered in my nose for hours.

Seeing “stars” (or everyone going green in my case) is usually a good sign that there was a concussion.

This would exclude a scintillating scotoma, as these are binocular.

I was xrayed, they said I was cleared, altho’ I complained mightily. Of course I was sent home to rest and take tylenol. I can’t take opiods, so I was stuck.

x-ray wouldn’t clear you for a concussion, only for something more severe, like a skull fracture.

Jesus, I guess maybe it was worse that I thought. It was over 20 years ago, so I guess I don’t need to worry about it.

It wasn’t like seeing stars—I get those even sometimes when I sneeze very violently.

Hmm, scintillating scotoma is indeed a good match for what I saw—it never occurred to me, because I hadn’t expected that it could be caused by a bump on the head. If anybody has more information here, I’d be very grateful!

Well, I’m willing to renege on that part if scintillating scotoma turns out to be the most likely explanation—as I said, the incident is long enough ago that I’m not sure I can trust my memory.

I’ve had scintillating scotomas a few times, and I’ve noticed that it’s pretty difficult to determine whether the effect is in one eye or both. Since it persists when you close your eyes, closing or blocking one eye doesn’t really help determine this.

I love that I get the flashing lights BEFORE the headache! I get about a 20 min. headstart on being medicated for the part that hurts. Which makes all the difference.

Damned annoying that bit about it expanding slowly to occupy the whole vision area. Really hate it when it hits while driving. :mad:

Sounds very much like what the OP experienced.

Educated guess: stimulation of the visual cortex.

I’m changing my vote to “coincidentally timed UFO.”

Note that an ocular migraine is much different than a scintillating scotoma. TimeWinder referred to an ocular migraine but appears to have linked an image for the scotoma (bad link, BTW). An ocular migraine happens in the eye; a scintillating scotoma happens in the brain.