- Migraines. Migraines, severe recurrent headaches caused by blood vessel spasms in the brain that last from a few hours to several days, often cause visual symptoms. Flashes of light that may look like zigzag lines, sparkles or geometric patterns often accompany migraines, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary states. Photopsia usually appear in the peripheral areas of vision and may affect one or both eyes. Photopsia can also occur without headache, a phenomenon called an ophthalmic migraine.
- Retinal Detachment or Tear. Retinal detachment or retinal tears cause photopsia that need prompt evaluation and treatment. Permanent vision loss can result if the retina detaches from the back of the eye, especially if detachment occurs over the macula, the central point of vision on the retina. The retina loses its source of nutrients when it detaches from the eye, and since the retina contains the photosensitive cells responsible for vision, the consequences from cell death can be severe. Retinal detachment can occur after trauma or as a complication from PVD or diabetes, the Mayo Clinic states. Vitreous gel can seep under the retina through small tears or holes that occur from retinal thinning, raising up sections and disconnecting it from the eye, or a PVD can pull hard enough on the retina to pull parts of it away. Surgery, laser treatment or cryopexy, a freezing technique, all may be used to reattach the retina.
- Other Causes. Trauma such as a blow to the head can cause a person to "see stars" or flashes of light. Digitalis toxicity can also cause flashes of light, All About Vision states. Digitalis is often taken to treat heart problems.
Photopsia Diagnosis:It can present as retinal detachment when examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Your ophthalmologist will discuss your symptoms and give you a complete eye exam. He or she will conduct a number of tests in order to understand the type and severity. Common tests your doctor may use include: Gonioscopy - determines if fluid is properly draining out of your eye.
- Fluorescein angiography - determines the amount of damage to your eye.
- Visual fields - tests your peripheral vision.
- Optical coherence tomography - examines the thickness of the retina.
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