Eye Flashes

Posted on Monday, October 17th, 2016 by Dr. Binoy Jani

Opthalmologist Culpeper

When you were a kid, did you ever close your eyes and squeeze your fingers against your eyelids? Or maybe now that you’re an adult, when you stand up suddenly — bright lights seem to flash across your vision. These strange spots of light don’t actually exist; they’re what’s known as phosphene, or the experience of seeing light when no light is actually entering the eye.

How is this possible, though?

Well, phosphene can be physically induced. When you rub your eyes or push against them while closed, you’re activating the retina. The brain interprets that as a visual signal, but when there’s no visual, you see patterns, colors, and spots instead. Another way that this might occur is when you sneeze; your eyes are closed but the pressure of sneezing creates spots across your vision, even when you open your eyes immediately after.

It’s also possible for phosphene to occur as a result of blood pressure. When you stand up after sitting down for a long time, you might experience a brief drop in blood pressure. That drop results in a loss of oxygen to the retina, so even though it’s brief, there’s still a signal misfire being sent. Since it’s not sure what to do, you get spots across your vision.

Is this a cause for concern? In some cases, yes — if you’re pregnant and you get spots across your vision, that can be a sign of other more serious problems. However, if you’re a normal child or adult, ultimately, no. Your eyes are fine, and if you’re concerned about spotty vision, try to avoid the above behaviors.