Help and frequently asked questions

Why am I seeing flashes?


Sometimes people see flashing lights in their vision. While small moving spots, specks, lines and dots are often just floaters, which are nothing to worry about, other flashing lights may be a cause for concern. Here is some information about flashes and floaters in your vision.

What are floaters?

Dots, circles, clouds, cobwebs, lines or other shapes that look grey, white or are see-through may be floaters. These can move or stay in one place and are easiest to spot when you look at a plain background like a blue sky or a blank wall. They are usually small and most of the time they move fast out of your visual field. If they are large or make it hard to see clearly, you need to consult your optometrist for an opinion.

What are flashes?

Also known as photopsia, flashes are when you see a light when there is no objective stimulus. It could be an arc of light, or feeling that a light bulb has just flashed of by your vision. This is sometimes accompanied by floaters. These occur when the vitreous gel of the eye tugs, bumps or rubs against the retina. Here are a few reasons why this could happen.

What is vitreous detachment?

As people get older, the chances of vitreous detachment increases - this is almost so common it is considered a normal part of getting older. It occurs when the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the retina. Symptoms of this include floaters and you may begin to notice more of these or see 'lightening strikes' in your peripheral or side vision. Sometimes the retina can tear and this is called retinal detachment.

What is retinal detachment?

If you experience a floater all of a sudden or the number of floaters you have increases rapidly, you need to visit your optometrist immediately. This could indicate a retinal detachment, a problem that can lead to severe loss of vision or blindness if not treated urgently. Signs of a retinal tear or detachment include a new onset of floaters or flashes, a rapid decline in your sharp, central vision. Other people may experience a gradual shading in vision that feels like a curtain is being drawn over their eyes. If any of these signs are experienced, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention.

How long will it take to recover from vitreous detachment?

It could take up to a few weeks to recover from a vitreous detachment and it is essential to get regular check ups from your optometrist. However, if your eyes are healthy and retina is normal then flashing lights should be no concern.

What is migraine?

Some people experience flashes in their vision, heat waves or jagged lines - this can precede a migraine. This may get worse and will be followed by a headache. In some cases, this can occur without the headache. This is known as an ocular migraine but you will need to ophthalmological examination to have this diagnosed. These often last around 10 - 20 minutes and are known as aura. It could be triggered by a number of things, including strobe lights. This usually occurs in both eyes at the same time. You should see your doctor if you suspect migraines as specialist medication may be required.

Why can't I recover after a camera flash?

If you see a persisting flash in your vision after a camera flash, it could simply mean that your eye takes longer to adjust and recover from bright lights.This is quite normal abut if you are concerned about the health of your eyes, you should see your optometrist.