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  1. Jasvir Virdee1,
  2. Susan P Mollan2,3
  1. 1Ophthalmology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Birmingham Neuro-Ophthalmology Unit, Ophthalmology Department, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3Metabolic Neurology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jasvir Virdee, Ophthalmology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TH, UK; jasvir.virdee{at}


‘Photopsia’ describes the symptom of visual disturbances that are typically flash-like, sudden in onset and brief, and occurring without light entering the eye. Patients reporting photopsia often pose a diagnostic challenge, given the wide range of possible neurological and ophthalmological causes. We review the common causes of photopsia, discuss the assessment and workup of this symptom, and stress the importance of close interdisciplinary liaison to help with its diagnosis and management. We discuss a patient with acute zonal occult outer retinopathy to illustrate these points.


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  • Twitter Susan Mollan @DrMollan.

  • Contributors JV drafted the manuscript. SPM found the case, took consent from the patient, revised and approved the final manuscript, and was also the overall guarantor of the manuscript content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed by Christian Lueck, Canberra, Australia and Mark Manford, Cambridge, UK.

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