Have you ever seen stars and pops of light when you rub your eyes? You would most probably see them when you vigorously rub them, but they can come by with even a gentle rub. In saying all of that, it’s likely that you have seen them, but have you ever given much thought into what they are? They are often depicted in cartoons as stars circling a persons head. But did you know that they have a name? In fact, the stars and colors you see when you rub your eyes are called phosphenes. But rubbing your eyes isn’t the only way to see phosphenes of light.
It’s a common theme in the cartoon industry. A character gets a blow to the head and they see stars. You have probably seen them too, although hopefully not from a blow to the head. If you did see stars and colors from a blow to the head, I hope you sought medical attention. The most likely time you have seen them is when you rubbed your eyes. But as already mentioned, you can also experience the phenomenon from a blow to the head, sneezing, coughing and even blowing your nose.
So now you are wondering how the stars and colors occur when you rub your eyes, right? The phenomenon is characterized by seeing light without light entering the eyes. It is caused by stimulating cells of the retina. Sometimes it can remain present for several moments after you open your eyes. They aren’t serious, and despite the annoyance when they occur, can normally be ignored.
Phosphenes have been recognized for a long time. They were first recorded in antiquity by the ancient Greeks, even though people woud have been experiencing them for a long time before then. It’s just that the Greeks were inquisitive enough to make a record of the phenomenon. People who meditate often report seeing them also.