If you’re experiencing light flashes in the eyes, then you might feel worried about your eye health. In this article, we’ll talk about the potential causes.
Eye flashes can appear in the form of sporadic sparkles or “fireworks” that aren’t physically there.
They typically come and go at a moment’s notice, but aren’t associated with vision loss. The question is, is it normal?
In some cases, they aren’t associated with anything serious (migraines are a common cause). In other cases, eye flashes can be a signal of an underlying medical condition.
How Long Do Light Flashes in the Eyes Last?
There’s no way to answer this question. It depends on the individual.
Some people experience this symptom only once, then never experience it again.
Others, however, can experience this symptom several times a day. Keep in mind that light flashes happen whenever the gel in your eye begins to pull on your retina.
It might also happen if you’ve been hit in the eye. Sometimes, chronic eye flashes can be the result of a retinal detachment or tear.
This final cause is typically also associated with a shadow at the edge of your vision. If you’re experiencing this symptom, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Eye Flashes and Migraines
Prior to having a migraine, you might begin to see sporadic shimmers of light that aren’t there.
This is a common symptom associated with migraines. It will usually only affect one eye, and will display as a jagged pattern.
Eye flashes associated with migraines tend to last for 1-2 hours. This will follow up with a severe headache.
Some people may get these shimmers but no headache, while some people get the migraine without the shimmers. It really depends on the individual.
A lot of people refer to this symptom as “seeing stars”.
Choroidal Nevus and Light Flashes
A choroidal nevus is a flattened area in the back of the eye that’s both pigmented and benign. It’s often referred to as an “eye freckle”.
A lot of people can have them, but in most cases, they don’t cause any symptoms.
Rarely, they can leak fluid, which can cause you to see light flashes that aren’t there.
It can also lead to more serious things like retinal detachment as well as vision loss.
Your eye doctor can monitor these throughout your life to ensure that they don’t develop into something serious.
The most common cancer of the eyes in adults is ocular melanoma. Each year, it affects about 3,000 people in the United States.
The average age for this disease is 55 years old. It can also be found in younger ages as well, though this is rarer.
It isn’t uncommon for people with ocular melanoma to experience strange eye flashes that aren’t there.
Remember that this is a malignant cancer, so if you don’t get it treated, it can spread to other parts of the body.
When Should You See an Eye Doctor About Eye Flashes?
When should you schedule a visit with your eye doctor regarding light flashes of the eyes?
Contact your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:
- Floaters that appear very suddenly
- Very large floaters that don’t go away
- Sudden flashes of light
- Eye flashes that are chronic
- Loss of vision
- Shadows in corners of vision
These are all signs of potential eye pathologies. You should contact your eye doctor if you’re experiencing any one of these.
Flashes become more and more common as people get older. In many cases, they aren’t serious and go away on their own.
But you should still see an eye doctor to confirm this.
What Are the Causes?
As people get older, the vitreous jelly in their eyes begin to shrink. This makes you more susceptible to eye flashes.
A common symptom that often accompanies light flashes are floaters in the eye. These are much more common and people can experience these often at a much younger age.
As we mentioned, age is a risk factor for eye flashes. However, there are a few other risk factors that you should know about.
People who are nearsighted are at a higher risk of developing both light flashes and eye floaters later in life.
These people are also at an increased risk of developing a retinal tear.
Finally, inflammation of the eye can put you at an increased risk for developing strange flashes that aren’t there.
These risk factors don’t guarantee that you’ll get this – they simply increase the odds.
Drugs and Treatment Options
Depending on what’s causing your symptom, there are various drugs and treatments available. Only an ophthalmologist can make the call as to what you’ll need.
Since this condition is benign and goes away on its own, the best approach might be to do nothing. If the symptom is caused by a retinal tear, then surgery or freezing/laser therapy may be required.