Have you noticed flashes of light in your vision or pinpricks of light? Many people often describe the sensation as ‘seeing stars’. It is natural to wonder what is causing this phenomenon. While occasional eye flashes are normally harmless, if you have suddenly started seeing these flashes repeatedly, this could be an indicator of a larger issue with your vision. To learn more about eye flashes, what causes them, and related conditions, read on below.
Table of Contents:
- What are eye flashes?
- What causes eye flashes?
- Are eye flashes a problem?
- Is there a treatment for eye flashes?
- What is the difference between flashes and floaters?
- Can a PVD (Posterior Vitreous Detachment) cause flashes?
If you are suddenly seeing flashes or stars frequently in your field of vision, contact Louisiana Eye & Laser Center Center and schedule an eye exam. This could be a sign of a retina issue, and our doctors will be able to evaluate your vision and recommend a treatment if necessary. Call us or contact us through the form below to schedule an appointment.
What are eye flashes?
Most people will see flashes of light occasionally, especially as they get older. People often refer to this phenomenon as ‘seeing shooting stars’ or ‘seeing lightning bolts’. What actually causes eye flashes, however, is the retina. Most of the time when an eye flash occurs, what is happening is that the vitreous gel inside of your eye is shrinking or changing. This can pull on the retina, which is the light sensitive lining of your eye. When this happens, it causes an eye flash. Sometimes a flash of light can also be caused if you are hit in the eye or rub your eyes too hard. In each of these cases, however, what is causing the eye flash is some sort of physical force on your retina. Usually, these flashes appear and fade rapidly. If you have bright spots or patches that stay in place for a long period of time, this could be a symptom of another condition and you should come in for an eye exam.
What causes eye flashes?
Eye flashes are caused when some sort of physical force affects your retina. This can be caused when the vitreous gel inside your eye shrinks or changes, which is usually harmless, or by being hit in the eye or pressing too hard on your eye. Any of these will pull or push on the retina, which is the light sensitive part of your eye, and cause an eye flash. However, if you suddenly start seeing eye flashes very frequently, this could be a serious problem. If you start having eye flashes frequently, especially along with other vision changes, this could be a sign that your retina is torn or detached. This is a serious condition that an ophthalmologist needs to treat quickly in order to prevent blindness. Therefore, if you only see an eye flash every once in a while, this is likely harmless, however you are welcome to come in for an eye exam if you want to be sure. If you are seeing eye flashes frequently, along with other vision problems or changes, come in for an eye exam as soon as possible so our doctors can determine if there is a larger problem with your retina.
Are eye flashes a problem?
Eye flashes are usually harmless, a sensory effect caused by pushing or pulling on your retina. However, if you experience any of the following you should call us or your doctor as soon as possible as it could point to a larger issue:
- You have a sudden increase in how often you see eye flashes
- You all of a sudden start having eye flashes and you never have before
- In addition to eye flashes you also have dark spots or cloudy vision
- You see a dark area in your field of vision
- After being hit in the eye or face you start seeing flashes of light
If you are experiencing the above, it could be a sign that your retina is torn or detached. Contact us or your doctor as soon as possible to have a vision exam.
Is there a treatment for eye flashes?
There is unfortunately no treatment for occasional flashes of light. These are usually harmless, caused by changes to your vitreous from aging. However, if you are experiencing the more serious symptoms described above, contact your doctor for an eye exam so you can receive treatment in the case that there is a more serious issue with your retina. Treating this underlying condition in this case would reduce the flashes in your vision.
What is the difference between flashes and floaters?
One common ocular emergency is the sudden onset of flashes and/or raining floaters. Although flashes and floaters are two different things they are often related to one another. As mentioned above, flashes are caused by the vitreous gel inside your eye shrinking or changing. Over time the vitreous can change and can cause “tugging” on the retina tissue. Sometimes these changes in the vitreous can create shadows on your retina causing you to see floaters in your vision. Floaters can often look different to different people. Sometimes people report seeing smoke or find themselves swatting away a gnat that is not there. Floaters are not inherently dangerous and are often not treated. However if you happen to see a sudden onset of floaters that look like they are raining, flashes or peripheral vision changes such as a curtain or a veil coming across your vision, make sure you get to your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. These symptoms can be a sign of an ocular emergency and be vision threatening.
Can a PVD (Posterior Vitreous Detachment) cause flashes?
If you have ever experienced flashes, it can be a very frightening experience. However, it is not always vision threatening. A sudden onset of flashes or floaters can be a sign of a retinal detachment that can lead to serious vision loss. It is important to be seen by your provider as soon as possible to rule out a possible retinal detachment if you are experiencing these symptoms. Although flashes and floaters can be a sign of a retinal detachment, it can also be a symptom of a PVD (posterior vitreous detachment). PVD’s are very common and often comes with age. The vitreous gel in the back of the eye goes through changes as we age just like the rest of our bodies. A PVD is where the vitreous gel becomes detached from the retina tissue. Sometimes as a PVD is happening, it can tug on the retina tissue causing flashes and floaters to appear in your vision. Although a PVD might not be inherently vision threatening, flashes and floaters are important to be thoroughly examined by an ophthalmology professional to be sure your vision is not at risk.
Seeing eye flashes? Contact Louisiana Eye & Laser Center Center
With eye care offices across Central Louisiana, we have retina specialists and doctors across the state who can help with your vision problems. If you are seeing flashes of light and concerned it could be a symptom of a more serious issue, call us or contact us below to schedule an appointment for an eye exam with one of our doctors.