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What is a scotoma?

A scotoma is a blind spot in your vision. The spot may be in the center, or it may be around the edges of your vision.

How does it occur?

A scotoma is caused by a problem in part of the visual system. The visual system includes the cornea, lens, retina, optic nerve, and vision centers in the brain. Scotomas may be a result of:

  • damage to the retina
  • damage to the optic nerve
  • a stroke
  • a tumor
  • an injury
  • multiple sclerosis

A scintillating scotoma may be the first sign of a migraine. This type usually starts as a spot of flickering light near the center of your vision. The spot may drift around the eye, or create arcs of light rather than being dark.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of a scotoma may include:

  • a spot in your vision that can be dark, very light, or blurred
  • trouble seeing certain colors
  • the need for bright light most of the time

How is it diagnosed?

Your eye care provider will give you a complete eye exam. He or she will also ask about your medical history because many diseases may affect your eyes.

How is it treated?

A scotoma cannot be treated with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. You may need to use devices to help you with your daily activities. Learning safety precautions and training in walking or driving with low vision are also important.

What devices can help with low vision?

Tools that can be used to help include:

  • large-number phone keypads
  • large-numeral watch faces
  • filters to reduce glare
  • "talking" clocks or scales
  • books, magazines, or newspapers on audio or printed in large type

Many electronic aids can help people with a scotoma. Some of these are:

  • Personal computer hardware and software that enlarge images on a computer screen. These can often be used with closed-circuit TV.
  • Systems that use video cameras and large TV screens to enlarge reading material.
  • Machines that "read" printed material aloud in a computer voice.
Reviewed for medical accuracy by faculty at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins. Web site:
Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-03
Last reviewed: 2010-10-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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