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Eye Flashes: Symptoms

By Lori Newell ; Updated August 14, 2017

Eye flashes, a type of visual disturbance, occur when the vitreous gel within the eye liquifies and pulls away from the retina. This condition can happen naturally with age, and is called posterior vitreous detachment. The retina is responsible for taking the light signals that enter the eye and turning them into nerve impulses. These impulses are then sent to the brain so sight can be interpreted. When the vitreous gel pulls away from the retina, vision is disturbed and eye flash symptoms may occur.

Light Flashes

The most common symptom of eye flashes is the appearance of bright streaks of light in the field of vision. They most commonly appear in the evening or in darkened rooms, states the Visitech Eye Centre. It is important to not ignore this symptom because in some cases it can signal a serious underlying condition. Sometimes flashes are not a cause for concern, while in other cases they may signal a detached retina or bleeding within the eye.

Light Showers

Each affected person experiences this condition differently. While some see flashes or streaks of light, others may see light “showers.” The University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center claims that this sensation is the same as being hit in the eye and "seeing stars." This visual disturbances may occur at random times for weeks or months and then subside, only to return later on. Medications may help if the symptoms interfere with everyday life, especially if flashes are accompanied by migraines.

Partial Loss of Vision

If the damage to the retina is severe and a tear or hole occurs when the gel pulls away, partial sight loss can occur, warns the Mid West Eye Center. At this stage, the flashes of light occur on a regular basis and vision in part of the affected eye may become blocked. Retinal tears and detachments usually require surgery. An eye doctor can perform a simple test to determine if the flashes are harmless or if there is a more serious condition that requires treatment. In rare cases--or if damage to the retina goes untreated--there can be a complete loss of vision.

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