Eye Floaters & Flashers
One of the most common reasons patients schedule an appointment with a retina specialist is when they see eye floaters and flashes in their field of vision. Almost everyone has experienced eye floaters and flashes at least once in their lives, and most of the time these symptoms are nothing to worry about. However, eye floaters and flashes are sometimes a sign of a more serious retinal condition. This is especially true if you start seeing a large number of new flashes and floaters.
Eye Floaters, Explained
Eye floaters look like specks of dust or dirt in your visual field. They can appear in many forms, including spots, squiggly lines, irregular shapes, and cobwebs. They are usually dark or transparent. Patients often see them prominently when they are looking at a plain, light-colored background, such as a white wall. Floaters typically move around when you move your eye. In general, they are caused by tiny collagen fibers clumping together into a small mass inside the vitreous humor, which is the gel-like fluid contained inside the eye. When patients see floaters in their vision, what they’re seeing are the shadows of these collagen clumps.
Eye Flashes, Explained
Eye flashes resemble a sudden small burst or pinprick of light in your field of vision. Patients sometimes describe this visual phenomenon as looking like flashes of lightning, flickering stars, or a spotlight. Eye flashes are commonly caused by posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is a natural change that occurs due to aging. As we get older, the vitreous gel inside the eye shrinks and diminishes in viscosity. Some patients have particularly “sticky” vitreous gel that sticks to the retina. If the vitreous is adhered to the retina and then shrinks away, it can pull on the retina, causing small flashes of light to spill through.
Causes of Eye Floaters & Flashes
There is a wide range of situations that can cause patients to see floaters and flashes in their field of vision. Some of these include:
- The natural aging process
- Retinal hemorrhaging
- Inflammation caused by uveitis
- Certain medications
- Eye surgery
- Retinal tear or detachment
Patients are more likely to experience eye floaters and flashes if they are over the age of 50, experience a traumatic eye injury, or have an underlying vision condition, such as diabetic retinopathy or myopia (nearsightedness).
When to See a Doctor for Eye Floater & Flashes Treatment
While seeing eye floaters and flashes is often not a cause for concern, patients should report their symptoms to an ophthalmologist as early as possible. They should also monitor how often their floaters and flashes occur, as well as how many. If there is a sudden upsurge in the number and/or frequency, patients should schedule an appointment with a retina specialist right away, as this can be a sign of a torn retina or that a retinal detachment is about to happen. Torn and detached retinas are serious medical conditions that should be treated as emergencies. If they are not addressed very quickly, they can potentially lead to permanent vision loss.
Schedule a Consultation
The doctors of North Carolina Retina Associates have many years of experience diagnosing and treating eye floaters and flashes and can administer any treatment necessary. Visit us today for comprehensive retinal care.