I’m seeing flashes of light

Are you experiencing flashes of light in your vision? You may be surprised to learn that they’re nothing to do with what’s going on around you but occur in your eyes and brain. Most flashes are caused when the gel inside the eye changes in some way and pulls on the retina. Most people experience the sensation of seeing flashes of light and, in most cases, they’re harmless. But what causes them and when should you consult a doctor?

Flashes of Light

Migraine

Flashes of light are one of the classic symptoms of a migraine. If you’re experiencing flashing lights in one side of your vision, then take ibuprofen or paracetamol and lie down in a darkened room with your eyes closed.

Retinal tears

Usually, the gel inside the eye moves around without any problem. Just occasionally, however, it pulls on the retina hard enough to cause a tear. If you notice dots and lines in your vision – known as floaters – or flashes of light then there’s a problem with the retina that can become increasingly serious. If the retina becomes detached it must be surgically repaired as quickly as possible to prevent loss of vision.

Floaters

If you see dots, lines or flashes in your eyesight, particularly when you’re looking at a white wall, then you have floaters in your vision. These are small pieces of debris that float around in the gel or vitreous at the back of the eye. Floaters usually become apparent as we age and are most common among people in their 60s and 70s. In most cases, the brain simply tunes out the presence of floaters but eyedrops can help. Laser treatment to blast clumps of floaters can also be effective.

Cataract lens implants

If you’ve undergone surgery for cataracts, then you might experience seeing flashing lights. This happens when light hits the new lens implant at an angle that seems to cause a flash in your peripheral vision. The brain soon adjusts to this phenomenon.

When to consult your doctor

If you suddenly see multiple dots and lines in your vision coupled with flashes of light then you’ll need to make an emergency appointment. These are symptoms of a detached retina which can have severe consequences if you don’t get it treated as quickly as possible. If you’re worried about flashing lights in your vision and you have other health symptoms, please consult your doctor.