• Flashes of Light

    Written by: Dan GudgelKierstan Boyd
    Reviewed by: J Kevin McKinney MD
    Mar. 21, 2017

    Flashes of light are pinpricks or spots of light that you see in your field of vision. Light flashes can also look like jagged lines or appear wavy, like heat waves. People often say seeing flashes of light is like seeing "shooting stars" or "lightning streaks."

    Flashes of light in your vision come from inside your eye or brain. They are not caused by lights or anything else outside of your body.  Most flashes happen when the vitreous gel inside the eye shrinks or changes, pulling on the retina (the light sensitive lining of the eye).

    Many people will see occasional flashes of light, especially as they age. These occasional flashes are usually harmless, but you should discuss them with your ophthalmologist during an eye exam However, if you suddenly start seeing repeated flashes of light, this could be a serious problem, especially if you also have cloudy floaters or vision changes. Call your doctor right away if this happens. Suddenly seeing new floaters and flashes could mean your retina has detached. This is a very serious condition that your ophthalmologist must treat quickly to prevent blindness.

    These conditions can cause flashes of light:

    Other symptoms that may seem like flashes of light include:

    For more information, see also: Floaters and flashes

  • The symptoms and possible related eye conditions/diseases in this section are for general reference only, and do not contain all visual symptoms or all possible related conditions or diseases. If you have any unusual vision symptoms, speak with your ophthalmologist.

    It's important to remember that many people do not know they have eye disease because there are often no warning signs or symptoms, or they assume that poor sight is a natural part of growing older. Early detection and treatment of eye problems is the best way to keep your healthy vision throughout your life. In many cases, blindness and vision loss are preventable.

    The Academy recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40. For individuals at any age with symptoms of or at risk for eye disease, the Academy recommends that individuals see their ophthalmologist to determine how frequently their eye should be examined.