Flashing Lights in Peripheral Vision: What Do They Mean?

Our vision plays one of the largest roles in allowing us to experience the world around us.

As a result, our eyes are incredibly important to us — and for good reasons.

Our eyes let us see the world around us and create tons of memories. So when you notice something strange happening with your eyes, it’s a pretty terrifying experience.

Experiencing what seems like flashing lights in your peripheral vision is one of the most common types of visual disturbances people face.

If you’ve ever seen these flashes yourself and wondered what they meant, we’ve got you covered today. Here’s everything you need to know. 


Why do you see these flashes?


Photopsia is the scientific name for this experience of flashing lights, and there are several reasons it may occur.

It’s important to note that you could see these flashes in several colors, shapes, and sizes. In most cases, the flashes occur due to acute changes in the eyes, often as a result of damage/trauma or aging. 

Any sort of damage or trauma to the retina, the light sensitive area at the back of your eye, can pull on the retina, creating the sensation of flashes. This can be caused by mechanical stimulation that physically displaces your retina (such as rubbing your eyes), or by a wide range of other neurological and ophthalmological causes.

Factors such as whether you see flashes in just one eye or both and your family medical history can help your optometrist or ophthalmologist determine the exact cause of your symptoms.

However, photopsia can also occur as a result of aging. As we get older, the connective tissue that holds our eyes together can weaken and become stiffer, causing visual disturbances and difficulty seeing. This increases the likelihood that the posterior vitreous humor of the eye detaches from the retina. Because other parts of the retina get pulled as a result, photoreceptors misfire, which our brain interprets as flashes of light.

While this is the most common cause of photopsia, it can also be caused by other conditions such as ischemia in the eye, inflammation, and thrombosis. Therefore, it’s important to see a professional to determine what exactly can be done to help you resolve the flashes you’re seeing. 


Should you be worried if you see flashes?


In general, no -- especially if the flashes have been slowly increasing in frequency over time.

If you notice a sudden increase in the flashes that you see, you should get in touch with your optometrist so that they can determine whether it’s a condition that they’re worried about.

If you’re getting older, usually around 50, it’s common to see these flashes now and then as your eye structure changes. However, again, if you see them too frequently, you should get in touch with a doctor. 

If you are young and still see these flashes, you might want to go to your eye doctor as it may concern you. There’s a chance your eyes have been damaged due to some damaging factors. In that case, you need treatment to get your eyes sorted out. 


Conclusion


To put it simply, seeing flashes of light now and then isn’t a big concern, especially if you’re getting older. However, if you see them several times an hour all of a sudden, you might want to visit your doctor and get checked up.