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Date: 19 Aug 2003
Remote Name: 22.214.171.124
Flashing lights are the sensation of lights going on and off, noticed particularly off to one side. They tend to occur in only one eye at a time and persist even when the eye is closed.
What Causes Flashing Lights? The vitreous, a clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye, sometimes pulls or tugs on the retina. This pulling causes the appearance of flashing lights or lightning streaks, though there is no flashing light actually present. This same sensation sometimes occurs when one is hit in the eye and sees "stars".
When the vitreous separates from the retina, flashing lights may appear periodically for a few weeks. This commonly happens as people grow older and usually is not cause for alarm.
Flashes of light that appear as jagged lines, last 10 to 20 minutes and are present in both eyes are likely migraine-caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain. If a headache follows, it is called a migraine headache. If there is no subsequent headache, the light flashes are referred to as ophthalmic migraine, or migraine without headache.
Should You Be Concerned? Most of the time the vitreous separates from the retina without causing any problems. Occasionally, flashing lights are associated with many new floaters and even a blacking out of part of the field of vision. If this occurs, immediate examination by an ophthalmologist is important to determine whether a retinal tear or retinal detachment has developed. Retinal tears require treatment to prevent the retina from detaching. Retinal detachment is a serious problem that must be repaired surgically.
Summary Floaters and flashing lights usually do not indicate any serious eye problem. If a large number develop or if they seem to be much worse over a period of time, an examination by an ophthalmologist is recommended. The examination involves careful observation of the retina and vitreous. Medical training and experience are required to perform this examination properly.