Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"What does it mean if I see flashing lights when I get a headache?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat does it mean if I see flashing lights when I get a headache?


I saw like bright yellow lights when I had a headache the other day, which has never happened. I get headaches, but nothing like this. What was this? Should I be worried?


Visual symptoms associated with headaches can be often seen in migraine headaches. It sounds like you are describing an aura that occurs with a classic migraine headache. Some people describe their symptoms as blind spots, sparks or flashing lights. But a patient can also get other symptoms like unilateral numbness or tingling, and occasionally weakness. Migraines tend to affect one side of your head, throbbing quality, and can be severely enough to limit your daily activity. Sometimes a patient can get other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, or light sensitivity. There are many triggers that sometimes it can be as simple as fatigue or being overly stressed. It is best to try to avoid these triggers. Most people find non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) helpful in controlling these symptoms. Sometimes it is important to take anti-nausea medicine with it as well. Staying well hydrated as well as seeking a quiet, dark place is often very helpful. If these measures do not alleviate symptoms of mild migraines, then it is necessary to seek medical attention for abortive medications. Chronic migraine sufferers can find relief from taking preventive therapy as mentioned (i.e., identifying your triggers and trying to avoid them), and by taking medications that your primary care physician can prescribe. Having said all of this, there are also other types of headaches, such as tension and cluster headaches. When you have chronic headaches like these with severe symptoms that limit your work and daily activity, it is best to seek medical attention to help control your symptoms and possibly identify other unusual causes. If your headaches come with neurological symptoms (i.e. unilateral weakness) or if it is sharp and is "the worst headache of my life" type, you should always seek medical attention. I would recommend that you have a visit with a neurologist soon.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.