Symptom: Flashes

Flashes: Seeing small flashes of light
Introduction: Flashes are visual effects where a person sees sudden flashes of light. (For "flashes" of warm feelings see "hot flashes".) Some of the effects are like flashing lights, an arc of light, or the feeling like a light-bulb has just flashed on and off in the periphery of vision.

Flashes need immediate medical diagnosis by an eye specialist because of the risk of the severe retinal detachment, which can cause vision loss. However, other causes of flashes (and floaters) are more common than retinal detachment, such as vitreous detachment due to aging.

Flashes are caused by improper stimulation of the eye's retina, or the optic nerve, which the brain interprets as light. Flashes may occur on movement of the eye, such as in vitreous detachment where the vitreous is pulling on the retina and eye movement exacerbates the effect.

Floaters are often associated with visual floaters, where the person sees spots, dots, lines, clouds or cobwebs in front of the eyes. Floaters are also a symptom of serious disease such as retinal detachment, but there are less serious possibilities also. Any floaters or flashes need immediate medical diagnosis by an eye specialist.

Detailed cause information for symptom: Flashes:
  • Possible causes of symptom: Flashes (16 conditions)
  • Medical conditions causing symptom: Flashes (8 conditions)

    Medical articles on symptoms: These general medical articles may be of interest:

    Flashes type of: Eye symptoms (199), Seeing lights (8)
    Symptoms: symptom center, symptom groups, symptom descriptions

    Possible causes of symptom: Flashes: The following medical conditions are some of the possible causes of Flashes as a symptom. There are likely to be other possible causes, so ask your doctor about your symptoms.

    Conditions listing symptoms: Flashes: The following list of conditions have 'Flashes' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.


  • Classic migraine ... flashing lights


  • Diabetic Retinopathy ... flashes


  • Migraine ... flashing lights
  • Multiple Sclerosis ... flashing lights


  • Posterior vitreous detachment ... flashes


  • Retinal detachment ... flashes
  • Retinopathy ... flashes


  • Vitreous detachment ... flashes

    Last revised: Nov 3, 2003

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