FLASHES AND FLOATERS
The vitreous is the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. As we age, the vitreous becomes thinner and more liquid. Over time the vitreous can collapse and separate from the retina, causing an increase of floaters in the eye. Flashes and floaters are small, moving specks or flashing lights within one's field of vision. While not all floaters and flashes are serious, you should have your ophthalmologist examine your eyes to ensure no damage to your retina.
The following may be reasons to be concerned:
- Sudden development of a new, large floater
- "Showers" of floaters
- You suddenly start seeing flashes (especially if these flashes are persistent)
- You see a dark area in your vision
Those experiencing these symptoms are advised to see their ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
WHAT CAUSES FLASHES & FLOATERS?
- Floaters – eye floaters are usually caused by clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous. Most people with floaters learn to ignore them and are usually only problematic if they become numerous or more prominent.
- Flashes – flashes are caused by a physical force on the retina. This can occur when the vitreous gel shrinks or changes, leading to a pulling on the retina. In some cases, the traction on the retina may create a tear, and retinal tears frequently lead to a retinal detachment which if left untreated can lead to permanent blindness.
HOW ARE FLASHES & FLOATERS DIAGNOSED?
Your ophthalmologist will be able to diagnose and evaluate the cause of a floater or flash. He will perform a comprehensive eye exam, including a visual acuity test. You may also have your eyes dilated to allow your eye specialist to see the vitreous and look for retinal holes or tears.
HOW ARE FLASHES & FLOATERS TREATED?
Eye floaters tend not to require treatment and most symptoms improve with time. In very rare cases, an eye surgery known as a vitrectomy may be done, but this is reserved for cases where a floater is seriously interfering with vision.
If a retinal tear or hole is not found, flashes normally settle down after a few months without treatment. If a tear is found, laser eye surgery will be used to prevent retinal detachment. Laser eye surgery is done to create a scar adhesion between the retina and the outer layers of the eye, fusing the tissues together around the retinal tear.