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Eye and Vision Care

Heartbeat pulse appears in vision

10/04/2005

Question:

I have recently noticed that while at rest, if I`m standing in front of a light-colored wall, I can see an area of my vision that pulsates in time with my heartbeat. It is visible on the "downbeat" of my heart and manifests as a small, darker spot in an area of my visual field. Heard of anything like this or know what potentially could be causing it? It`s a recent phenomenon --never had it before.

Answer:

Your central retinal artery pulse is linked to your heartbeat, so it is normal to have minor and temporary variations in blood flow through your retina. Eye doctors can see this pulse when they perform an internal examination of your eye. But the visual changes are usually so slight that most patients do not notice them.

You are obviously a very perceptive patient and, when the lighting condition and your pupil size are just right, you can observe these minute variations in blood flow because they do affect the functioning of your retinal rods (for side and night vision) and cones (for central and color vision).

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Response by:

Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO Robert D Newcomb, OD, MPH, FAAO
Professor Emeritus of Clinical Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University