Flashes of light are considered to be an extremely important symptom where immediate attention needs to be provided by an eye care professional. This complaint can mean the difference between sight and blindness for a patient. Before we run to the emergency room, let's discuss what might potentially be happening to the visual system when this occurs.
Your optometrist will try to determine the duration, location, frequency and timeline of these flashes. Including any injuries/accidents that may have occurred near your eye (ie. head injury as a child, boxer, car accident.) along with systemic health history (ie. uncontrolled blood pressure, migraines, vertigo...). These details will aid your doctor in finding a more efficient diagnosis.
A complete eye exam including dilation should be conducted to address the complaint as best as possible. Eye care professionals are looking to the retina to check for tears in the tissue that could potentially lead to a complete retinal (sensory tissue inside the eye) detachment. If the retinal tissue detaches we will loss complete sensory information in that portion of the eye. Most patients that experience this light will describe it as lasting 2-5 minutes, usually in one spot of the vision, and will occur at any time of the day.
Flashes can also be seen with migraine patients (most cases). They experience lights (ie. starburst, shaking lights) vision that last about 20 minutes and can be followed by a migraine headache. However some patients never get the headache just the visual aura (effect); this is still considered a migraine. Have the dilation to rule out retinal detachment then consult your medical doctor for options.
Sudden flashes that occur with standing too quickly or a drop in blood pressure can also frighten a patient. These will only occur for seconds at a time related to an event. Again the doctor will dilate your eye to rule out detachments but most likely related to nutrition, medications or health conditions.
I highly recommend contacting your eye care professional or us at Eyed LA Optometry (424-208-3107) to discuss your flashing lights. Keep in mind the sooner we are able to exam a patient the better the prognosis (outcome).
See and Be Seen! @ Eyed LA Optometry in Brentwood, West Los Angeles