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Photopsia: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

Photopsia is the subjective sensation of lights, sparks, or colours due to electrical or mechanical stimulation in your eyes. It is the presence of perceived flashes of light. Basically, it is a symptom developed from seeing flashes of light or of other conditions. Photopsia is not harmful and does not require immediate medical attention [1] . It is commonly found in older individuals, especially after the age of 60. Although rare cases have been reported in young and healthy adults.

Photopsia is sometimes referred to as flashes. The luminous objects can appear in the vision of one eye or both the eyes [2] . In most cases, photopsia tends to disappear quickly. However, there have been reports of it being permanent as well. It causes appearances of anomalies in the vision such as flickering lights, shimmering lights, floating shapes, snow or static and moving dots [3] .

Symptoms Of Photopsia

The warning signs of photopsia include the following [4] :

  • Weakness
  • Blurred or reduced vision
  • Dizziness
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mental confusion
  • New or worsening headache

Causes Of Photopsia

Various conditions that affect your eye and vision can develop photopsia [5] , [6] , [7] .

1. Retinal detachment

The retina is light sensitive and is responsible for sending the visual images to the brain. When the retina detaches from its place, it will move and shift from its normal position. This will result in the development of photopsia or even permanent vision loss.

2. Peripheral vitreous detachment (PVD)

This occurs when the gel around your eyes separates from the retina. Peripheral vitreous detachment is commonly found with ageing. But when PVD develops instantly, it will result in the development of photopsia. It can block your vision due to the floaters and flashes, which mostly reduces in a period of two to three months.

3. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is commonly found in individuals aged above 50 years. The macula in your eyes enables you to view things sharply. So once the macula begins to degenerate, you may develop photopsia.

4. Ocular migraine

The severe and recurring headache result in the development of pain the head. It will also result in causing visual changes known as auras.

5. Optic neuritis

This is a type of inflammation that damages your optic nerve and is associated with multiple sclerosis. It can cause flickering or flashing with eye movement along with a loss of colour perception, pain and even vision loss [8] .

6. Vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI)

It is a condition that develops when there is a lack of proper blood flow to the back of the brain. The insufficiency causes a lack of oxygen to the part of the brain responsible for vision and coordination.

Some of the other causes of photopsia are head trauma, eye or brain tumour, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) and certain medications [9] .

Diagnosis Of Photopsia

In order to examine and understand the condition, the doctor will carry out the following [10] :

  • The doctor will use special drops to dilate the pupil so as to get a better look at the retinal and vitreous fluid.
  • An eye test will also be conducted.

Treatment For Photopsia

The treatment for the irritation will depend on your specific situation and what is causing the eye flashing. Although there are no specific treatment methods for photopsia, laser or freezing therapy and surgery are the possible options [11] .

However, it is necessary that you go to a doctor if you are experiencing flashes of lights in your eyes along with dizziness or weakness. Because it could be the first sign of eye conditions or a head trauma [12] .

View Article References
  1. [1] Amos, J. F. (1999). Differential diagnosis of common etiologies of photopsia.Journal of the American Optometric Association,70(8), 485-504.
  2. [2] Oishi, A., Miyamoto, K., Kashii, S., & Yoshimura, N. (2006). Photopsia as a manifestation of digitalis toxicity. Canadian journal of ophthalmology, 41(5), 603-604.
  3. [3] Kadikoy, H., Barkmeier, A., Peck, B., & Carvounis, P. E. (2010). Persistent photopsia following course of oral voriconazole. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 26(4), 387-388.
  4. [4] Goodfellow, J. F., Mokete, B., & Williamson, T. H. (2010). Discriminate characteristics of photopsia in posterior vitreous detachment, retinal tears and retinal detachment. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, 30(1), 20-23.
  5. [5] Hazra, M., Culo, S., & Mamo, D. (2006). High-dose quetiapine and photopsia. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 26(5), 546-547.
  6. [6] Urushitani, M., Inoue, H., Udaka, F., & Kameyama, M. (1996). Monocular photopsia preceding with neovascular glaucoma due to internal carotid artery occlusion; a case report. Rinsho shinkeigaku= Clinical neurology, 36(3), 481-484.
  7. [7] Giuseffi, V., Wall, M., Siegel, P. Z., & Rojas, P. B. (1991). Symptoms and disease associations in idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri): a case‐control study. Neurology, 41(2 Part 1), 239-239.
  8. [8] Marsiglia, M., Odel, J. G., Rudich, D. S., Tsang, S. H., & Plant, G. T. (2016). Photopsia and a temporal visual field defect.Survey of ophthalmology,61(3), 363-367.
  9. [9] Stevenage, M., Theochari, E., Johnson, D., & Warner, G. (2017). 0948 (An) Exercise in diagnosing (a rare cause of) double vision.
  10. [10] Noguchi, Y., Kawashima, Y., Maruyama, M., Kawara, H., Tokuyama, Y., Uchiyama, K., & Shimizu, Y. (2018). Risk Factors for Eye Disorders Caused by Paclitaxel: A Retrospective Study.Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin,41(11), 1694-1700.
  11. [11] Post, A. (2016). Photopsia Position allows to close on Cause.
  12. [12] Boss, J. D., Lieu, P., & Tewari, A. (2016). Case Report: Effect of treatment of rectal cancer metastasis with intravitreal bevacizumab (Avastin) in patient with subretinal fluid and macular oedema: short-term follow-up.BMJ Case Reports,2016.
Read more about: eyesight causes symptoms retina
Story first published: Wednesday, April 10, 2019, 14:30 [IST]
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