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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Photopsia is the presence of perceived flashes of light. It is most commonly associated with posterior vitreous detachment, migraine with aura, migraine aura without headache, retinal break or detachment, occipital lobe infarction, and sensory deprivation (ophthalmopathic hallucinations). Vitreous shrinkage or liquefaction, which are the most common causes of photopsia, cause a pull in vitreoretinal attachments, irritating the retina and causing it to discharge electrical impulses. These impulses are interpreted by the brain as 'flashes'.

This condition has also been identified as a common initial symptom of Punctate inner choroiditis (PIC), a rare retinal autoimmune disease believed to be caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying the retina. During pregnancy, new-onset photopsia is concerning for severe preeclampsia.

Differential diagnosis of causes of photopsia

It is most commonly associated with posterior vitreous detachment, migraine with aura, migraine aura without headache and retinal break or retinal detachment.

Drug Side Effect

See also

Fortification spec­tra


  • Amos JF (1999). "Differential diagnosis of common etiologies of photopsia". J Am Optom Assoc. 70 (8): 485–504. PMID 10506812.

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