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Floaters and Flashes
Though typically harmless, bothersome floaters and sudden flashes in your eyesight can be signs of eye diseases requiring emergency care.
Floaters are projected by clumps within the vitreous, the jelly filling your eye. Flashes happen when the vitreous tugs on the retinal wall.
How do you know if you suffer from floaters or flashes?
Symptoms Develop Suddenly
& Most Disappear Immediately
Floating Spots in Your Field of Vision
As you shift your eyesight, floaters appear as spots, specks, circles, or “cobwebs” which block your field of vision.
Sudden Flashes in Your Vision Can Be Alarming
Many describe the experience as seeing flashing lights, streaks of lightning, or “seeing stars.”
Who most commonly experiences flashes and floaters in their vision?
& Floaters Are Common
Although you can experience flashes and floaters at any age, your chances of seeing them increase as you get older. Aging causes the gel inside of your eyes to shrink, forming clumps. These clumps project shadows onto the retina and cause floaters. Alternatively, shrinkage causes tugging on the retina, which you experience as flashes. However, these can also be symptoms of a more serious retinal disease.
Can anything else cause flashes and floaters?
Which Factors Can Contribute
to Floaters and Flashes?
Weak capillaries in the blood can leak blood and create clots in the vitreous. These clots cast shadows on the retina.
You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden symptoms. Usually presenting itself as a sudden onset of flashes, floaters, or vision loss, retinal detachment occurs when the retina is pulled away from the back wall of your eye. Delaying treatment can result in permanent vision loss.
What is causing my flashes and floaters?
"Most causes of new floaters and flashes can be determined through a clinical exam by an ophthalmologist."
Kellogg Eye Center
Is There a Way to Prevent
Floaters and Flashes?
Attend Regular Eye Exams
Your doctor can diagnose your symptoms and address serious issues during a routine eye exam, reducing your chances of total vision loss.
As some floaters are caused by trauma, you should be careful to avoid impacts with your eyes. Wear protective goggles when working or participating in contact sports. To avoid cataracts, wear sunglasses and avoid prolonged sun exposure.
Should you get tested even though these conditions are usually harmless?
Call a Doctor Immediately If You Experience
Sudden, Heavy Flashes and Floaters
If you experience a sudden, heavy, and persistent onset of flashes and floaters, contact a doctor immediately. These can be signs of a retinal tear or detachment, which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.
This doctor is performing a slit lamp exam to diagnose the presence of flashes and floaters.
Your doctor will dilate your eyes using eye drops to check for a retinal tear and determine whether the floaters or flashes are caused by any diseases. Depending on the source of your symptoms, your doctor may perform additional testing including a slit lamp exam.
Is there treatment available?
Most Patients Do Not Require Treatment
Unless There is Retinal Damage
If your doctor determines that your symptoms are not being caused by retinal disease, you may wait and find that the spots become less noticeable or disappear entirely. Often, surgery poses a higher risk of complication compared to the inconvenience of floaters and flashes.