Some people experience flashes of light in the corner of one or both eyes. The flashes may also appear in a variety of shapes and colors and vary in frequency and duration.
Flashes of light in the corner of the eye could be due to changes in the eye’s structure, which becomes more common with age.
Some conditions, such as migraine auras, may also cause flashes of light in the eyes.
This article will examine the causes of flashes of light in the corner of the eye. It will also cover when a person should get advice from a doctor.
Flashes of light in the corner of the eye can result from an eye condition or injury. Photopsia is the medical name for these flashes, and this phenomenon usually occurs when there are changes inside the eye.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue that receives light at the back of the eye. It processes the light from the lens to send impulses through the optic nerve to the brain.
The vitreous body is a gel between the retina and lens that protects the retina and maintains the eye’s structure.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, most flashes occur when the vitreous body changes shape and pulls on the retina.
Occasional flashes are usually harmless and may happen more with aging. However, visual disturbances can also result from eye trauma, such as a blow to the eye or rubbing the eye too hard, or a medical condition.
Seeing flashes of light is not usually a cause for concern. However, if this occurs regularly, a person should contact a doctor.
Sometimes, flashes of light in the eye could signal a severe problem. They may also appear alongside floaters, which are tiny dots or lines that may appear in a person’s vision.
The combination of sudden, repeated flashes with other visual disturbances could indicate vitreous detachment or a more severe condition.
Some eye-related causes of flashes in the corner of the eye can include:
Vitreous body or retinal damage
Changes in the shape or position of the vitreous body are common and become more likely with age. A vitreous detachment can cause these flashes with floaters.
Vitreous detachment is a condition wherein the vitreous body breaks away from the retina. There are currently no treatments for vitreous detachment associated with aging, and people tend to adapt to the flashes and floaters eventually.
Vitreous detachment is not usually serious. However, it could have severe consequences, such as a hole or tear in the retina, for some people.
Tearing the retina can cause retinal detachment or bleeding in the eye. The symptoms can also include blurred or darkened vision.
Cryotherapy and laser therapy are common and effective treatments for retinal tears. For some people, however, the tear causes no symptoms and requires no treatment.
Eye trauma can also cause flashes in the corner of the eye. Trauma can put pressure on the retina, causing flashes.
Symptoms of eye trauma might disappear immediately and require no treatment. However, a person should contact a doctor immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- persistent eye pain
- vision problems
- cut or torn eyelids
- difficulty moving the eye
- a change in pupil size or eye position
- blood in the eye
- a feeling of something being stuck in the eye
A person should also avoid touching or scratching the eye.
Cytomegalovirus retinitis is a virus that affects the retinas. It can cause floaters with blurred vision that may lead to vision loss in one eye.
Without treatment, the symptoms of cytomegalovirus retinitis can spread to both eyes. The virus can also cause permanent retinal damage, resulting in blindness.
Treatments for cytomegalovirus retinitis include laser eye surgery and antiviral medications, such as ganciclovir (Cytovene).
Several other health conditions can cause flashes in the corner of the eye, such as:
- visual disturbances, such as seeing flashes of light, spots, or zigzags
- vision loss
- sensory changes, such as tingling or numbness
- difficulty speaking or understanding others
Combinations of medications that reduce the symptoms and prevent future episodes are available to treat migraine.
Occipital epilepsy is a rare condition that affects some young children and teenagers with epilepsy. It may cause seizures that affect vision, leading to the person seeing flashing lights and multicolored spots.
Most young children and teenagers stop having these seizures as they age.
Doctors may treat occipital epilepsy using antiepileptic drugs to prevent seizures.
Stickler syndrome is a rare genetic condition that can cause problems with the eyes, hearing, and joints. Stickler syndrome also commonly causes distinct facial features, such as a small chin and cleft palate.
Stickler syndrome can also cause eye abnormalities that increase the risk of developing retinal detachment, leading to flashes and floaters.
There is currently no cure for Stickler syndrome, and treatment depends on the specific symptoms a person experiences. For example, if a person has a detached retina, doctors may recommend laser surgery, freezing treatment, or other surgery types.
Diagnosis for flashing lights in the eyes will include an eye examination. A doctor will ask the person about their symptoms and any possible causes, such as a recent blow to the eye.
They will visually inspect the eye for any signs of injury, and they will also look out for distinctive features of someone with Stickler syndrome, such as a cleft palate.
An eye examination may include scleral depression, which involves applying gentle pressure to the eye. It may also involve using a specific lens for inspecting the retina.
A doctor may also use a dilated eye exam to check for cytomegalovirus retinitis. This involves using eye drops to dilate the eyes for inspection.
Flashes are an uncommon symptom of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety typically include:
- difficulty concentrating
- sleep problems
- heart palpitations
- difficulty breathing
Some people report anxiety causing vision problems that include seeing stars or shimmers. However, there has been little research into visual disturbances as a symptom of anxiety.
Flashes in the corner of the eye can have many causes. The flashing mostly results from changes in the eye’s structure, which becomes more likely with age. Age-related eye changes are usually harmless.
However, some causes of seeing flashes in the eyes could be severe. For example, retinal tears can cause bleeding or persistent vision problems. Some conditions, such as migraine auras, can also cause flashes in the eyes.
Anyone experiencing continuous flashing in the eyes or flashing alongside other visual disturbances should contact a doctor.