Reasons Behind Sparks of Light (Photopsia) in Vision

If you see sparks of light in vision, it is a type of vision disturbance or photopsia. Typically, this can happen in either or both eyes, in different colors, shapes, frequencies, and durations. There can be a number of reasons for this symptom to appear.

This article focuses on sparks of light (photopsia), its causes, and treatment.

In fact, sparks of light (photopsia) are symptoms of various medical conditions. Some of these conditions are hard to diagnose, unlike common causes.

In most cases, photopsia is not a serious condition. However, it can be serious in cases like “detached retina”. If you encounter these situations, it is best to consult an eye care professional as quickly as possible.

What Are the Causes of Sparks of Light (Photopsia) in Eyes

Typically, there are several conditions that may cause sparks of light (photopsia) such as:

Detached Retina, PVD, Retinal tears – May Cause Sparks of Light (Photopsia)

Detached Retina

The retina is a thin membrane containing light receptors. The eyes are attached to it from the backside. Sometimes, a part of this membrane separates from the eye backsides. If not treated promptly, it may cause vision loss.

In fact, sparks of light (photopsia) may be one of the symptoms of a detached retina. There can also be other symptoms such as blurry vision, eye floaters, or “curtain” partially blocking visions.

PVD (Posterior Vitreous Detachment)

The vitreous is a gel-like substance inside the eyeball. The retina is attached to it. With age, the retina slowly separates itself from the vitreous gel. Typically, you may see flashes of light due to this harmless process of separation.

Retinal Tears

In most cases, the retinal tear happens spontaneously. It can also happen from trauma. During the PVD (posterior vitreous detachment), sometimes, the vitreous gel sticks to the retinal interiors. Hence, the retinal tissues get pulled and a retinal tear occurs.

This also causes photopsia. There are many factors that contribute to retinal tears including aging and having nearsightedness (myopia). Retinal tears can also lead to retinal detachment.

Therefore, the eye doctors have to examine closely, why you see flashes of light. It may be due to PVD, retinal detachment, retinal tears, or any other reasons.

Macular Degeneration – May Cause Sparks of Light (Photopsia)

The macula is a retinal part. As it degenerates with age, the eye loses the center of the field of vision. This eye disorder is common among aged people, especially those above 50 years of age.

Macular degeneration is of two types. Dry and wet. Among these conditions, wet macular degeneration most commonly causes photopsia. However, Dry macular degeneration does not always lead to photopsia.

In these cases, the patients may see sparklers, flickers, squiggles, pinwheels, circles, or pulses of light. Sometimes, the patients may also see gold, blue silver, or multicolored lights.

Other Causes

Head Injury

Accidentally, people receive blows on their heads in many ways. It can be through sports, falling down, accidental head collisions, etc. As a result, the vitreous gel-filled inside the eyeball shakes rapidly.

Typically, this causes them to see sparks of light (photopsia), particularly during the impact. Some people also describe it as “seeing stars”. In fact, this can be a brain injury (concussion), raising out of impact. Hence, immediate medical attention is necessary.

Medications

Some medicines like digitalis (heart medication), chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine (malaria medications), etc., may also cause photopsia.

Migraine Auras

Typically, migraine refers to a neurological condition that causes headaches and other problems. A group of symptoms called aura are also associated with migraines.

Often, the symptoms include seeing light in wavy forms, zigzags, spots, dots, or stars. There can also be a range of other symptoms ranging from Nausea to Olfactory hallucinations

This is called visual migraine. It is different from ocular migraine, a more serious condition that can lead to temporary vision loss.

Diabetes

Diabetes can also cause vision changes. Diabetic retinopathy is one such condition. In most cases, patients suffering from this disease may see sparks of light and eye floaters. Regular doctor visits are necessary to prevent vision loss.

Phosphenes

When you rub your eyes, electrical activity takes place in the eye cells. As a result, you may see images, bright spots, bars of light, swirling colors, etc. This is phosphenes.

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you experience the following symptoms, consult an eye specialist as soon as possible:

1.) The sparks of light appear suddenly, especially when looking at the sides
2.) Darkened vision or partial vision loss
3.) Blurred vision
4.) Dizziness
5.) Severe headaches
6.) Visual changes
7.) Seeing eye floaters
8.) Experiencing migraine auras
9.) Eye injury and other problems related to eyes.

Treatment

In general, some health conditions or eye-related issues cause the sparks of light in the eyes. The doctors run a variety of tests to find the underlying cause. Then, they proceed with the relevant treatment.

As mentioned before, some medications can also cause these side effects in your eyes. So, make sure to communicate your medications to the doctors examining you.

In some cases, like optic neuritis, medicating the cause of infection is enough to stop these symptoms. However, conditions like retinal detachment, retinal tears, etc., may need surgical procedures.

There are some effects related to aging like shrinking of the vitreous. There is no treatment for these symptoms.

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