Flashers & Floaters
Flashes and floaters both deal with your eye’s gel-like vitreous fluid. While annoying at times, they are not dangerous by themselves. They can, however, be symptoms of a more serious issue and should have a thorough dilated eye exam.
What are floaters?
Floaters get their name because they appear to float within your field of vision. While they seem to float in front of the eye, as though they could be brushed away, floaters are actually shadows on the eye’s retina cast by clumps of cells that float within the vitreous gel of the eye.
Causes and dangers of floaters
- Floaters are most often caused by the shrinking or thickening of the eye’s vitreous gel due to natural aging.
- The vitreous gel can pull away from the back of the eye – a condition known as a posterior vitreous detachment.
- The retina can tear when the vitreous detachment occurs. Torn retinas can produce traces of blood in the eye that look like new floaters. Contact us if you suddenly see a new floater, and we can check for a retinal tear.
- Surgery to repair or remove the floater itself is almost never necessary.
- If a torn retina caused the floater, we may need to perform a laser treatment to prevent it from progressing to a retinal detachment.
Have you ever seen stars after being hit in the eye? These “stars” or flashes of light are caused by your eye’s vitreous gel pulling on your retina. They can continue to flash for weeks or even months.
Some people experience migraine flashes, caused by spasms in the brain’s blood vessels or a metabolic imbalance of brain cells.
Contact us if you see new flashes of light.
How can we help?
- We will painlessly examine the retina and vitreous gel of your eye.
- Your pupils will be dilated for the complete retinal examination. Please bring a driver if you, in the past, have had trouble driving with your pupils dilated.
- You may need surgery if the floater or flashes are caused by a torn retina.
- Most often, we will simply track the floaters and flashes for changes. Be sure to tell us if you see anything new.
Ask the Doctor
Q: I’ve seen flashes of light for years. How do I know when to seek help for it?
A: Contact your eye doctor immediately if you see new flashes of light. Your flashes could be signs of a retinal problem that can be diagnosed with a complete dilated ophthalmic exam. New flashes need to be checked to make sure they’re not part of a more serious problem. If they’ve already been checked by another doctor, and you’re still concerned, contact us for an appointment.