• Are the flashes I see after contracting viral meningitis a sign of permanent injury from the virus?


    Question:

    I contracted viral meningitis four weeks ago and was hospitalized for a week. The pain and swelling in my skull and neck still remain with constant pain in my eyes. I have light sensitivity, wear sunglasses everywhere and cannot watch TV without having flashes of black or white light. Can this be a sign of permanent eye injury from the virus?


    Answer:

    If this is happening at the same time in both eyes, or even in each eye separately, the likelihood is that the source is in the brain, not the eyes, given your history. For simplicity, consider the eyes to be cameras (which take pictures) and the brain to be the screen or monitor on which the images appear and are interpreted. The “meninges” are the coverings of the brain and have been inflamed and irritated by the viral infection which you suffered. Just as a cough can last for weeks after a viral infection, the visual areas of the brain can be irritated for quite a while after the infection has resolved. Please keep in touch with your neurologist during this period.

    On the other hand, viruses can affect the eye either through the bloodstream or by travelling along the meninges, which cover the optic nerve. If only one eye is affected, it should be checked by your ophthalmologist, especially if there is pain, redness, or blurred vision.