Flashes of light can be a symptom associated with the aging process, where the eye's vitreous gel begins to shrink. Floater and light streaks are common eye issues found in older adults that are often not a problem. However, visual flashes of lights can also be a sign of certain medical conditions, such as a retinal tear or detachment, migraine headache and intraocular melanoma, as noted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
As people grow older, the vitreous gel, which is attached to the retina, can start to shrink and separate from the retina. In some people, this separation can cause a retinal tear or detachment if the vitreous gel rubs forcefully against the retina.
Symptoms of these eye conditions are an increase in the number of floaters, light streaks that develop suddenly, a decrease in vision and the appearance of a shadow in the peripheral vision field, as stated by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. A retinal detachment can be a medical emergency that requires prompt attention because it can lead to vision loss if left untreated.
Another medical condition that produce visual light streaks is an ocular or retinal migraine. These types of headaches can cause symptoms, such as losing vision in an eye, light streaks in the visual fields, nausea, light sensitivity and pain on one side of the head, notes WebMD. The causes for an ocular migraine can be linked to issues with retinal nerve cells or blood vessels.
Primary intraocular cancer can develop in the colored part of the eye in the melanocytes, as stated by the America Society of Clinical Oncology. This is also called ocular melanoma, and it tend to occur in the uvea part of the eye. However, there are other types of ocular cancer.