After Bryce Harper saw “splotches” in his eyes during Sunday’s game, the outfielder was examined and diagnosed with dehydration, the Phillies said. He was given an intravenous solution, and his vision returned to normal.
Wait — the team couldn’t have made sure its $330 million man had enough water?
Not so fast, sports fans.
The key detail, several physicians said: Even after Harper’s vision returned to normal, the slugger had a headache and was bothered by the bright lights of TV cameras during a post-game interview.
“The photosensitivity is absolutely a classic sign” of an ocular migraine, said ophthalmologist Richard Eisenberg, who practices in Worcester, Mass.
Eisenberg was one of three physicians who emailed The Inquirer to propose the migraine theory after reading an article in which the Phillies blamed Harper’s eyesight woes on dehydration.
Team officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Harper, who left Sunday’s game after the fifth inning, was in the lineup Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Wills Eye Hospital corneal surgeon Beeran Meghpara, who was quoted in the original article about how dehydration can lead to vision problems, agreed that an ocular migraine also was a possibility. But he cautioned that he, like the three other physicians, had not examined the baseball player.
Eisenberg, a Levittown native who attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate and then went to the Medical College of Pennsylvania, knows ocular migraines as a physician and as a patient. He said he once experienced the phenomenon while playing golf, apparently triggered by the glare off the metal shaft of a golf club.
“There were many parts of my vision that were just darkened,” he said. “I couldn’t see the ball on the tee for about 15 minutes.”
The term ocular migraine is sometimes informally used for classic migraines that are accompanied by a visual “aura,” but Eisenberg said ocular migraines actually are a different phenomenon.
Their cause is not entirely clear, but is thought to be related to a type of transient electrical activity in the brain, he said.
“If I were to do a visual exam during one of these episodes, the eyes would look totally fine," Eisenberg said.
To the uninitiated, the symptoms can be alarming. Patients may perceive zigzag lines on one side of their field of vision and may even experience temporary numbness, Eisenberg said.
“People may think they’ve having a stroke,” he said. “It’s really a scary kind of thing.”
While Harper’s vision improved after IV hydration, his recovery may have been coincidental. There is little physicians can do to treat an ocular migraine, said Eisenberg, who continues his boyhood support for the Phillies from his home in Massachusetts.