Do you often complain about sudden flashes of light? Some of which occurrences are more prominent at night?
Flashes of light is not a condition on its own, it is usually a symptom of an eye-related issue or other health issues.
It happens when the retina, the innermost light-sensitive part of the eye, pulls on the vitreous gel, a clear jelly-like fluid responsible for the protection and maintenance of the retina.
Some people may experience flashes of light as they grow older.
However, it is recommended that you go for a regular eye baseline test at the age of 40 as this symptom can develop into partial or complete blindness in one or both eyes.
What Are Flashes Of Light?
Flashes of light in the eyes are known as eye flashes.
It occurs when the vitreous gel found inside your eyes rubs on or pulls on the innermost light-sensitive part of the eyes, the retina.
When this happens, you may feel sensations similar to seeing stars, just like you’ve just been hit.
It feels as though you see flashing lights or lightning streaks. Although it is common for these flashes of light to appear on and off for several days, weeks, or months.
It is more prevalent to occur as you grow older. Experiencing sudden flashes of light should be diagnosed as soon as possible.
Sometimes the vitreous gel may pull away from the back wall of the eye or the retina pulls away because of shrinkage of this vitreous gel while it gradually tears away.
In cases like this can be a serious problem or lead to another condition known as eye floaters.
Floaters are tiny clumps of gel inside the vitreous gel. They appear as small specks of clouds in your line of vision that are clearer when looking at a plain background.
Floaters may also seem like little dots, clouds, cobwebs, or circles.
Not all flashes of light or floaters are serious. However, you should always visit a medical ophthalmologist for regular check-ups most especially if you experience any of these symptoms;
- You see sudden and persistent flashes of light
- Floaters appear suddenly and may be a large floater or showers of floaters
- There are onset of new symptoms, including loss of side or partial vision, like there is a shade or curtain over your line of vision.
The Academy Association Of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40.
Individuals at any age with symptoms of or at risk for eye disease, in such cases, the Academy recommends individuals see their ophthalmologist who determines how frequently their eye should be examined.
Risk Factors For Flashes Of Light
This is the most susceptible risk factor for flashes of light. The older you get, the weaker the back walls of your eyes may get due to strain.
Short And Near Sightedness
People with high myopic are also more likely to develop flashes of light.
This is because they may frequently have to strain their eyes compared to others and this constantly pressures the retinas.
Medications, injuries, or physical trauma that result in inflammation can also increase your chances of flashes of light, most especially if you do not seek immediate treatment.
Surgeries are not left out. These are high-risk and complicated procedures with impacts.
Although not all surgeries have debilitating side effects, as long as it is done by a professional surgeon and you follow all instructions given.
What Causes Flashes Of Light In The Eyes?
According to the American Academy Of Ophthalmology, flashes of light do not just occur on their own.
They are caused by different factors and conditions. Some are related to eye issues, while others are linked to medical health problems.
Migraine is a severe recurring headache associated with symptoms of visual disturbances that occur within 60 minutes.
You may see zigzag lines, stars, or dots in your field of vision.
Physical trauma or injuries directly to your eyes can cause pressure on the retina and lead to sensations of flashes of light or seeing stars
Medications like viagra, lanoxin, clomid, revatio, and some others contain ingredients that may cause side effects in your eyes.
These side effects include flashes of light or floaters.
Eye tumors or those in the brain can trigger flashes of light when you turn your head or neck. This is a case that should be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Occipital epilepsy is a rare type of epileptic seizure that affects a part of the brain and causes visual flashes.
This epilepsy is often mistaken as migraine, but they are different. Occipital epilepsy is shorter and lasts for 2 minutes, while migraines last longer for 60 minutes.
This is a serious condition that happens when the retina detaches and shifts back from the back wall of the eye.
Individuals with this condition are prone to suffer from partial or complete blindness.
This is a virus that affects the retinas. It mostly occurs in one eye and spreads to the other if there is no appropriate treatment.
It causes floaters along with blurred vision that leads to blindness or loss of vision in one’s eyes.
Why You See Flashes Of Light In The Dark?
You may experience flashes of light at any time of the day but it may be more prominent at night or in dark shades.
These flashes of light are caused by physical and medical factors. However, the trigger is from pressure put on the eyes.
This means that factors like injuries, eye-related problems, aura migraines, and tumors all have one thing in common to flashes of light – pressure on your retinas and the vitreous gel.
The retina is light-sensitive tissue of the eyes that is in the innermost part of the eyes. It helps line the back walls of the eyes.
This part processes focused light, which comes in through the pupils. It transmits this information to the brain to convert it into a picture.
The vitreous gel is a clear jelly-like fluid that helps protect the retinas and maintain their shape. It is also found at the back of your eyes.
A direct hit to either of these areas will affect the other and trigger flashing lights. You experience these sensations if the retina rubs or pulls on the vitreous gel.
It can also occur when you rub your eyes or as a sign of health issues.
Sometimes, people experiencing flashes of light in their eyes report having these flashes more prominently after a sudden and overwhelming feeling of panic and anxiety.
Treatment For Flashes Of Light In The Dark
Flashes of light is not a condition on its own, it is a symptom of an eye-related issue or another health condition.
Therefore there are various treatments available depending on the underlying cause.
For treatment options, visit your physician for a diagnosis to determine the specific cause and best treatment available to suit you.
Be sure to inform your doctor of any medication you are currently taking. There are medications prone to cause visual-related side effects.
Some cases caused by inflammation require an injection to stop the flashes of light.
For serious cases like retinal tears and retinal detachment, the patient will have to undergo surgery to correct the problem.
Some other related issues caused by growth and aging do not have treatment options available.
When To See A Physician
Retinal detachment is quite serious and requires immediate treatment. A medical emergency and immediate medical attention are needed in such cases.
Swift medical attention is also needed in all cases of serious eye injuries. If you notice the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately.
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Blurred vision
- Sudden flashes of light that are more prominent when you move your head or look to the side
- Darkened vision or partial loss of vision
- Sudden and unexpected vision related problems
- Increase in flashes of light in one eye or both eyes
- Increased number and frequency of floaters
- Heightened visual auras and migraines
- Sudden change in vision
Symptoms of flashes of light may also be linked to a stroke. Do not ignore any symptoms you notice that seem abnormal and recurring.
Other symptoms to look out for include;
- Severe headaches
- Speech difficulties associated with slurred speech and trouble talking to others
- Weak and numb sensations on one side of your body
- Visual changes and disturbances
- Debilitating discomfort
Your physician can determine the specific cause of your flashes of light based on your examination, the duration, location, and type of visual disturbance you experience.
Most people are not aware of their eye problems and the warning signs. Some may think that poor eyesight is natural and normal at an older age.
Go for early detection tests and diagnosis to prevent eye diseases and debilitating effects.
American Academy Of Ophthalmology: Flashes Of Light
Kellogg Eye Center, University Of Michigan Health: Floaters And Flashes