Flashes & Floaters

What are floaters?

Floaters are very common. Usually floaters are not harmful, but they can be annoying. Floaters are small pieces of the gel-like substance called the vitreous, which fills the eye. Floaters are usually the result of the aging process when the vitreous gel shrinks, pulls away from the retina, and forms small clumps. Floaters are noticed when they interfere with vision by blocking the light as it enters the eye. Floaters may look like spots, lines, cobwebs or spiders and are noticed mostly when reading, looking at a blank wall or staring at a clear sky.

Floaters are most common in people who are nearsighted, people who’ve had an eye injury and sometimes after surgery. Floaters usually come and go, changing their location. If a floater interferes with the direct line of sight, moving the eye around by looking up and down or back and forth may move the vitreous fluid and reposition the floater.

When do floaters indicate a serious problem?

As the vitreous gel shrinks away from the retina, the retina may become torn and cause bleeding. These tears require immediate medical intervention by an ophthalmologist in the form of painless laser treatment in order to prevent a retinal detachment, which can lead to partial or complete blindness. If you experience a sudden appearance of multiple floaters call our office immediately at 810-732-2272.

What are flashes?

Flashes are described as seeing flashing lights or lightning streaks. They are most common at night or in dark places. Even though the sensation is one of seeing light, no light is actually flashing. Flashes result from the vitreous gel pulling on the retina. If the vitreous actually separates from the retina, flashes may be seen consistently for weeks. These also are a result of the aging process and usually do not indicate any serious problem. Eventually flashes will fade away as the pulling of the vitreous gel decreases over time. Sometimes flashes appear during a migraine headache and distort vision for up to 20 minutes and are seen as jagged lines or waves in both eyes.

When do flashes indicate a serious problem?

If flashes appear suddenly with a series of new floaters or with a partial loss of vision, it is important to be seen by an ophthalmologist immediately. If a retinal detachment is present surgical intervention may be necessary. If you experience a sudden appearance of multiple flashes and floaters call our office immediately at 810-732-2272.

Is there treatment for floaters and flashes?

Most floaters and flashes are untreatable. If they suddenly appear and are evidence of a retinal detachment, then retina surgery may be necessary. For larger floaters in the line of sight that don’t resolve over time, there is a laser procedure called vitreolysis that can break up the floater and help it settle out of the line of vision.

If you are experiencing floaters or flashes, click here to fill out our quick email form or call our office at 810-732-2272, so we can be of service.