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Ask the Expert: What are the streaks and halos I see around lights?

Answers by Mitchell Gossman, MD, an ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, located in St. Cloud

What are the streaks and halos I see around lights?

Streaks and halos are very common symptoms and can result from several problems with the eye.

When light is focused by the lens in your eye, the outside world light is (you hope) precisely focused to a point so the entire outside world is clear, all at the same time. However, if something interferes with the passage of light into the eye, blurred vision can result. Glare and starbursts may result when the light from bright sources of light, such as the sun, stars, and headlights, are scattered, resulting in the extra images around the light source.

A “starburst” is caused by light being scattered more in different directions than others.

The picture shows light that is scattered equally in all directions, and is seen as a “halo.”

The most common cause of this, particularly after age 60, is cataract. The natural lens of the eye, which sits behind the pupil, becomes cloudier with age, and one of the early symptoms can be glare and haloes. If you are not overly bothered by this, you can choose to live with it as long as your vision is satisfactory for everything else. If you feel it is bothersome enough to warrant surgery, you could choose to have cataract surgery. Lens implants using during cataract surgery are not absolutely perfect lenses either, though, so some of these glare and halo symptoms can occur after surgery as well, or there may be other parts of the eye that have issues that can cause these symptoms. Discuss this with your ophthalmologist if you are considering surgery.

Needing a change in the glasses prescription can also be a cause of glare and haloes. Having LASIK surgery, even when done perfectly, can result in some glare and halos after surgery. Even just needing glasses for the first time, or having damaged glasses lenses, can cause this. The bottom line is, if you are experiencing these symptoms, the best thing to do is to be seen for evaluation, and discussion of treatment options.

Find out more

Mitchell Gossman, MD., and Andrea Joplin, MD., are ophthalmologists at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, and see patients from all over Central Minnesota and the St. Cloud area. They accept new patients, and appointments may be made at 320-774-3789.

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