Flashes of light in the eye often appear as little shooting stars or momentary bright spots. If you have never experienced them before, they may seem to be coming from outside, making the initial experience perhaps a little scary.

Flashes are usually accompanied by floaters, dark spots that are very small in size. There is a gel around the retina of the eye called vitreous gel. Whenever that gel shrinks or changes in size, it will pull on the retina, creating the effects of flashes. That gel is also typically responsible for floaters. The gel’s movement can tear parts of the retina from the optic nerve, causing partial or complete blindness

In most cases with older people, eye flashes are not something to worry about, but you should visit an optometrist regardless, to ensure there is no major problem. The fact is that our eyes change as we age, as well as from potentially life-threatening disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to see an eye doctor the first time you experience flashes, as well as when they appear beyond what your doctor says is normal.

Emergency Cases:

For flashes in the eye, there are some cases when you should immediately go to an emergency room. If the retina starts to become detached from the eye, partial or permanent blindness will occur. Prompt medical help may stop the detachment process. Go quickly if:

  • You have been hit in the eye, and the flashes are accompanied by

    • Pain (that is beyond the initial shock)

    • Floaters

    • You experience flashes for the first time, or beyond the ordinary amount

  • You seem to have lost some vision, no matter how much

  • Bright spots, patches, or lines that stay in place for a long period of time

  • Flashes that seem to be shimmering like heat waves

Non-Emergency Cases:

If you are experiencing flashes for the first time, and they seem not more than a minor annoyance, you should still see an optometrist. There are other reasons for flashes that could be very serious, though not immediately threatening. Anything that causes the eye to change pressure, such as glaucoma or cancer in or near the eye may lead to blindness. Flashes with floaters may be ordinary, but they may also indicate the start of retinal detachment.

​​​​​​​If you experience flashes in any unusual way, especially with large floaters, it is time to see an optometrist. Come to the Christenson Vision Care optometry office in Hudson, WI, as soon as possible. Your prompt action to see the eye doctor may be what saves your eyesight. We want you to be safe, rather than sorry.

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