Why Do People See Weird Patterns When They Rub Their Eyes?

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Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

It was simple: I was tired, almost took a nap, rubbed my eyes, and boom I see a bunch of weird patterns and colors. It obviously wasn’t my first time noticing it but it did spark my interest to do some research on the topic.

Why do we see blobs, stars, and weird patterns when we rub our eyes?

Let’s Begin With The Retina

According to Healthline, the retina is a thin layer tissue in the back of our eye. The purpose of the retina is to receive light so we can have visual recognition.

The light is processed through photoreceptor cells that transfers through the optic nerves to the brain. When the retina processes a picture from a focused light, the brain will decide on what the picture will be.

Also, the retina plays an important role in our vision. If the retina is damaged, it can cause permanent blindness.

What About Colors, Blobs, and Stars?

According to Scienceline, The strange blobs that we see are called “phosphenes,” aka the light that we see from inside our eyes. The cells in our eyes also emit biologically produced light particles called biophotons. The reason why biophotons exist is because our atoms constantly emit and absorb photons (tiny particles of light).

So, when we rub our eyes, we’re generating more biophotons in many parts of our eyes which can cause us to see phosphenes.

Furthermore, our eyes can’t tell the difference between photons that’s coming from outside or biophotons that’s being emitted through our own atoms.

As stated in the beginning, regardless on how the light comes into our eyes, our optic nerve will relay these light signals to the brain. Then the brain will decide what represents the world around us or if we’re simply seeing phosphenes.

Can Everybody See Phosphenes?

The short answer is NO.

According to Scienceline, people who were blind since birth cannot see phosphenes. However, people who lost their vision through an illness or an unnatural cause can still see bits of phosphenes because their eyes usually won’t lose all visual functions.

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