When you hit your head, you may see stars or flashes. Is there a specific name for them?

  • What? That's real? I always assumed that was just cartoons performing a visualization of dizziness. I mean, obviously the cartoons are doing cartoony stuff (especially when there are stars and angels and other things, and then the angels start fighting with each other, and other such nonsense), but I didn't know where was a real effect of "seeing stars" that the cartoons were based off of (even loosely). – TOOGAM Dec 28 '15 at 1:17

Seeing flashing lights is called photopsia. But "seeing stars" is a perfectly normal way of referring to the phenomenon.

  • Starting from the word you provide (“photopsia”), I have also found “phosphene”, defined as “a sensation of light caused by excitation of the retina by mechanical or electrical means rather than by light”. – Albertus Jun 6 '12 at 13:19

This is one of several types of entoptic phenomenon : visual effects whose source is within the eye itself


Many people also use "knockout stars", as seen in cartoons when a character is knocked out. The character sees stars swirling around his or her head.

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