Points of light, flashes and zigzag lines can herald a migraine or an epileptic seizure. In this way, those affected can recognize when they should act.
Phenomena in the field of vision
We don’t always see the world clearly, even when we have a clear view. Sometimes obstacles or phenomena impair our field of vision. These can be flashes of lightning, flashing light, transparent spots that move with the eye, zigzag lines or even failures of the field of vision. Some of these phenomena we have a lifetime, they are quite normal. Other perceptual disorders occur suddenly and can be a warning signal. They often frighten the affected persons and can cause panic.
Doctors distinguish the following phenomena in the visual field:
- gray, trickling particles (sooty rain)
- Flashes of light (photopsies)
- seeing a black wall
- blind spots in the field of vision (visual field loss, scotoma)
- the perception of dark point-, line- or snake-shaped structures (so-called Mouches volantes, French for buzzing flies)
- arc-shaped flickering (eye flickering, medical term: flicker scotoma).
It is advisable to consult a physician to clarify the visual disorders. This is because serious illnesses, such as a vitreous detachment, a retinal detachment, vitreous hemorrhages or a stroke can be behind it. The Mouches volantes, on the other hand, were judged by ophthalmologists to be harmless.
The flickering of the eye, also known to doctors as flicker scotoma, takes on a kind of intermediate position. It can be harmless, but it can also be dangerous. When the eyes flicker, a bright spot of light suddenly appears in the field of vision. It spreads to larger light phenomena, flashes or zigzag lines and moves through the eye. Sometimes bright arcs also appear.
Anyone who notices such phenomena should observe them carefully. Usually the cause is relatively harmless. For example, a circulatory weakness, an incipient migraine or overexertion during sports can be behind it. Hypoglycaemia or pregnancy poisoning can also cause a flicker scotoma and make a visit to the doctor necessary. If the symptoms do not disappear after about one hour, this is an emergency. Those affected should consult an ophthalmologist at the latest then. This is because the disorders can also be caused by a detached retina and the threat of blindness. Under no circumstances should one drive a car or operate machines during such visual problems, as perception is severely restricted.
What is eye flicker?
Doctors refer to points of light that spread out in the field of vision in an arc or zigzag shape as flickering eyes. They waft in the eye and flicker. The spots can first appear at the edge of the field of vision, then move and become larger. Outside the affected areas, vision usually remains normal. Some affected persons also complain of nausea and dizziness associated with the flickering scotoma.
In most cases, the visual problems disappear again after 15 to 30 minutes, without secondary diseases. However, they can occur several times in a row.
It is not always easy to distinguish them from other optical perception disorders, so an ophthalmologist should be consulted if the cilimer scotoma lasts longer than an hour, recurs several times and cannot be explained, for example, by circulatory problems or migraines.
These causes have flickering eyes
In most cases, the ciliated scotoma, the arc-shaped flickering in the eye, is a harbinger of the onset of migraine. This affects women three times as often as men. Before puberty, however, it is equally distributed between both sexes in children. The neurological disease triggers a seizure-like, very severe headache accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Sometimes the patients can also speak poorly or move with difficulty.
Ophthalmoplegic migraine in particular can be the cause, from which mostly children suffer. This form of migraine affects one or more nerves of the oculomotor system, which are responsible for the supply and movement of the eyes. Often the headache begins shortly after the visual problems occur – a stabbing, throbbing pain that determines everything. Ten percent of Germans suffer from this neurological disorder. Many of them know the flickering eyes as an unmistakable sign that a migraine attack is imminent.
In rare cases, the flickering of the eyes may also indicate an approaching epileptic seizure or a stroke may be the cause. This is usually accompanied by coordination problems, nausea, dizziness and physical failures.
Thyroid diseases such as Hashimoto and diabetes mellitus can also cause a ciliated scotoma. They disrupt the body’s nutrient balance and circulation, so that temporary perception problems in the eye can occur.
If the eye flickers only occur once, hypoglycaemia or a circulatory disorder due to low or high blood pressure may be the cause.
Sports can also trigger the flickering in the field of vision – the intense physical exertion causes pulse and blood pressure to rise. At the same time, excessive strain can lead to hypoglycaemia, which manifests itself in tremors, weakness and flickering eyes. The reason: a slight undersupply of glucose and oxygen to the brain tissue. Isotonic drinks can help to bring the water and electrolyte balance back into balance.
In the morning after getting up, especially in women, the blood pressure is often too low – this can also cause visual problems and flickering eyes. Anyone who tends to do so should get up slowly: First sit on the edge of the bed, move your feet and arms to get your circulation going and then get up.
Stress, long car journeys, long hours working at the computer screen and a high level of nervous strain in everyday life can strain the eyes, causing vision problems. However, these usually disappear again after a few minutes if you allow yourself some rest. If your eyes flicker after working at the computer, you should give them a break: Maybe take a walk or choose another activity.
In rare cases, flickering can be a side effect of various medications such as migraine medications and antidepressants. A severe lack of the nutrients vitamins A and C, zeaxanthin and lutein also leads to problems with the retina. Other important nutrients for the eye are zinc, anthocyanins, vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids.
The consumption of intoxicating drugs (e.g. cannabis and LSD) can also lead to flickering arcs of light in the eye.
The symptoms of flickering eyes
The flickering points of light can appear anywhere in the field of vision – at the edge or in the center, on one side of just one eye or on both. Even with closed eyes they are visible and do not disappear. Often the scotoma has an arc shape, sometimes there are many, small, flickering spots at the edge of the field of vision.
The arc moves from outside to inside and vice versa. It is often surrounded and filled with flickering, glowing, jagged patterns. Some sufferers report nausea and dizziness, which accompanies the visual problems.
Flickering of the eyes during pregnancy
Special attention should be paid to eye fibrillation during pregnancy. Besides high blood pressure, protein in the urine, headaches, dizziness and upper abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting, it may indicate pre-eclampsia. Colloquially, pre-eclampsia is known as pregnancy poisoning, whereby the maternal organism is overloaded by the pregnancy. This disease is highly dangerous for mother and child and often leads to the death of the embryo. The life of the mother is also threatened by pre-eclampsia.
Flickering eyes and cataracts
A special case of eye fibrillation can occur after cataract surgery (the so-called cataract operation), in which an artificial lens is inserted into the eyeball. Some patients notice a flickering or trembling of the image in the operated eye in the first period after the operation. This is caused because the artificial lens is still wobbling. The edge of the lens can also cause fine crescent-shaped or sickle-shaped reflexes under certain light conditions. These phenomena are completely harmless and disappear when the artificial lens is completely ingrown. Eye drops or eye gels can alleviate the symptoms somewhat.