What Really Causes You To See Stars In Your Vision

As a kid, you probably remember a scene from one of your favorite cartoon series where a beloved character gets knocked on the head. Suddenly, a swarm of bright yellow stars is seen floating around their head. The notion of "seeing stars" is not only seen in cartoons, but also in real life when we experience a disturbance in our vision.

Our vision functions through the many cells that make up our eyeballs. When a light source enters through our eye by means of the cornea, it's then filtered through the rod and cone cells in our retinas, which send signals to our brain which convert these signals into the images we see before us (via How Stuff Works). When we see sudden flashes of light or "stars", this is a result of an interference in this process, usually within the brain or the retina itself (via Medical News Today). 

While there are a variety of potential sources of the flashes, one of the more common instances where people report seeing stars is from an injury to the head.

Head injuries, migraines, and retinal damage can all cause us to see stars

Our brains are surrounded by a protective layer of fluid that keeps it safe and cushioned within our skull. When we experience a sudden impact to the head, the brain can get jostled and collide with the hard texture of the inside of our skull (via Medical News Today). Should the occipital lobe, the area of the brain responsible for vision, experience the impact, this can result in the experience of seeing stars.

Another source of these flashes can be from migraine headaches. Common symptoms of migraines include dizziness, nausea, or a painful throbbing sensation in the head. In addition to stars, migraines can also induce images of spots, sparkles, or tunnel vision. These visual disruptions are a result of atypical electrical impulses firing in the brain. 

In more severe cases, seeing stars can occur when there's been damage inflicted to the retina (via Healthline). Our retinas contain a protective covering that has a gel-like consistency. When the gel becomes overstretched, it can rub against the retina, or in rare cases, detach entirely. This can result in the experience of seeing stars. Fortunately, most retinal detachments are able to be mended through surgical procedures.

Should you have concerns about your eyesight or experience ongoing symptoms, please consult a medical professional or optometrist for further diagnosis and treatment.