Flashes and Floaters

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Have You Seen Specks Floating In Your Vision?

Aging causes the vitreous, the gel-like substance that maintains the eye’s roundness, to thicken and shrink. This process may lead to clumps that cast shadows on the retina, called eye floaters. 

Have You Seen Sudden Flashes In Your Vision?

Vitreous shrinkage may also cause the vitreous to pull on the retina, which leads to light streaks in vision, called eye flashes. 

Receive A Dilated Eye Exam

Patients experiencing flashes and/or floaters should schedule a dilated eye exam. If significant retinal tears/retinal detachment appear, Dr. Conlon will refer to a retinal specialist.

If you are experiencing sudden onset of eye flashes/floaters, schedule an appointment immediately. These symptoms may be indicative of retinal detachment, a condition, which if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.

 

Understanding Flashes and Floater: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

 

Key Takeaways

  • Floaters and flashes can be signs of serious underlying conditions, so it is important to seek an eye specialist if they are experienced.

  • Regular eye exams are essential for early detection of retinal issues and prevention of vision loss.

  • Lifestyle modifications such as wearing sunglasses, staying hydrated, managing stress etc., can help reduce the risk of floaters and flashes.

Understanding Floaters

Floaters are small clumps of gel or cells in the vitreous – the jelly-like substance that fills the eye – which cast shadows on the retina, resulting in specks or clouds in vision. They can be a sign of posterior vitreous detachment or torn retina.

Flashes of light are a common symptom of the vitreous gel in the eye tugging or rubbing on the retina. This can be quite uncomfortable and inconvenient for the person affected. Monitoring the appearance of new floaters or flashes is pivotal, as they may signal a serious underlying condition requiring medical attention.

Common causes of floaters

Floaters can be caused by:

  • Age-related changes in the vitreous humor, which becomes more liquid as we age

  • Nearsightedness, which increases the risk of developing floaters due to the elongation of the eye

  • Inflammation in the eye, such as uveitis

  • Recent intraocular surgery

Although floaters are common and usually harmless, monitoring them and seeking professional help if they worsen is recommended.

When to be concerned about floaters

Concerning floaters may signal retinal issues, such as tears or detachment. Warning signs of these conditions include new onset of floaters or flashes, particularly in conjunction with changes in vision. Treatments for retinal tears include laser photocoagulation, which uses pinpoint laser light to fuse the retina to the back wall of the eye, and cryopexy, which uses extreme cold to achieve the same effect.

Should you notice any warning sign, consulting an eye specialist to prevent permanent vision loss is imperative.

Understanding Flashes

Flashes of light in the eye, or photopsia, are another type of visual disturbance that can be concerning. Flashes can be caused by the vitreous gel rubbing or pulling on the retina. Similar to floaters, flashes can also be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Recognizing the difference between occasional and sudden flashes can help determine if a visit to an ophthalmologist is warranted, especially in cases of a sudden increase in their frequency.

Warning signs of serious conditions

New or increased flashes of light, especially when accompanied by floaters or vision changes, may indicate a serious condition, such as a retinal tear or detachment. Sudden flashes of light in the eye may appear as lightning bolts in the periphery of the field of vision and can be either persistent or transient, possibly triggered by eye movement. Experiencing sudden flashes or flashing lights warrants an immediate visit to an ophthalmologist to eliminate any serious issues.

Differentiating between occasional and sudden flashes

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Occasional flashes, also known as eye flashes, are usually harmless and denote pinpricks or spots of light flashes that appear and disappear in an instant when flashes happen, typically manifesting in a single eye. Unlike repeated flashes, these are less frequent and not a cause for concern.

Paragraph 2: On the contrary, sudden flashes require prompt evaluation by an ophthalmologist, as they can have serious medical implications, such as a torn or detached retina, which requires treatment.

Paragraph 3: Prompt evaluation and treatment can help to avert further complications and vision loss.

Detecting Retinal Issues

Regular eye exams and monitoring symptoms can help detect retinal issues early, preventing permanent vision loss. Noticing alterations in vision, such as hazy vision, loss of vision in certain areas, or abrupt changes in vision, are important indicators of retinal issues. Additionally, the presence of floaters, distorted vision, or flashes of light may be observed. If any of these symptoms are experienced, seeking immediate medical assistance is crucial.

Symptoms to watch for

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Paragraph 1: Be vigilant for symptoms such as new or increased floaters, flashes, or vision changes. These symptoms may indicate retinal issues, such as tears or detachment, and require immediate medical attention.

Paragraph 2: Regular eye exams should be conducted every 1 to 2 years, particularly for individuals aged 65 or older, to monitor any changes and ensure optimal eye health.

Importance of regular eye exams

The significance of regular eye exams is profound. During an eye exam, the following tests may be conducted to detect retinal issues:

  • Retinal examination

  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)

  • Visual field tests

  • Ultrasound

Detecting and treating retinal issues early can stave off vision loss and other associated complications.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Understanding risk factors and making lifestyle modifications can help reduce the risk of developing floaters and flashes. Primary risk factors for developing eye floaters and flashes include:

  • Being nearsighted (myopia)

  • Undergoing cataract surgery

  • Developing eye inflammation (uveitis)

  • Receiving YAG laser surgery

  • Sustaining an eye injury

Proactively addressing these risk factors can help in preventing floaters and flashes.

Lifestyle modifications to reduce risks

Incorporating lifestyle modifications can help reduce the risk of floaters and flashes. Maintaining hydration is crucial for eye lubrication and overall eye health. Managing stress through techniques like deep breathing exercises or meditation can reduce anxiety related to floaters and flashes.

Protecting your eyes from harsh light by wearing sunglasses can also help reduce the visibility of floaters.

Importance of family history

Family history plays a role in the risk of developing floaters and flashes, so it’s vital to be aware of any related conditions in your family. Conditions such as Stickler syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and retinitis pigmentosa are eye diseases related to floaters and flashes that can be genetically inherited.

Taking initiative about your family’s eye health history and sharing that information with your healthcare provider can aid in early detection and treatment of floaters and flashes.

Diagnosis and Tests

Seeking an eye specialist and undergoing necessary tests can help diagnose the cause of floaters and flashes. During an ophthalmologist clinical exam for floaters and flashes, the ophthalmologist will typically perform a dilated eye exam to examine the vitreous gel, retina, and optic nerve. If the cause of floaters and flashes is not identified during a clinical exam, additional testing may be necessary.

When to seek an eye specialist

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Paragraph 1: Consulting an eye specialist is crucial if you experience new or increased floaters, flashes, or vision changes. Eye specialists can use special instruments to inspect the eyes and differentiate between harmless floaters and flashes and more serious underlying conditions. They can offer an accurate diagnosis and suggest suitable treatment options, such as laser floater treatment or surgical intervention if needed.

Additional testing if necessary

Additional testing may be required to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment for floaters and flashes. An ultrasound of the eye may be conducted to visualize the retina and detect any abnormalities or conditions, such as retinal detachment or posterior vitreous detachment. This swift, painless, and non-invasive test assesses the structural integrity of the eye and facilitates an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for floaters and flashes depend on the underlying condition and may include non-invasive or surgical interventions. It is not always necessary to assume that floaters and flashes are indicative of a serious condition. However, it is important to visit an ophthalmologist and get your eyes checked for any retinal damage.

Non-invasive treatments

Non-invasive treatment options for floaters and flashes include laser floater treatment (LFT) and laser vitreolysis. In some cases, observation is recommended, where the floaters and flashes are monitored over time without intervention.

Other non-invasive treatments include laser treatment, such as laser photocoagulation and cryopexy, which are used to treat retinal tears.

Surgical interventions

In more severe cases, surgical interventions may be necessary. Pneumatic retinopexy, scleral buckling, or vitrectomy may be required to treat floaters and flashes. These procedures are used to repair retinal detachment or remove vitreous debris from the eye, depending on the underlying cause of the floaters and flashes.

Consulting an eye doctor to determine the most suitable treatment for your specific situation is advised.

Coping with Floaters and Flashes

Coping with flashes floaters involves adjusting to vision changes and seeking support and resources. With time, your brain may become accustomed to the presence of floaters and flashes, making them less noticeable.

Gently moving your eyes in circles or looking up and down may help to shift the position of the floaters in your field of vision.

Adjusting to vision changes

Adapting to vision changes can involve utilizing visual aids, moving your eyes to shift floaters, or using light filters to reduce the visibility of floaters.

While most floaters and flashes do not require medical treatment, any concerns or significant vision impairment warrants consultation with an eye care professional.

Seeking support and resources

Seek support from eye care professionals, support groups, or online resources to help manage floaters and flashes. There are a range of assistance options available, including the Koch Eye Community Outreach program, which offers education and support for various eye conditions, such as flashes and floaters.

Seeking help and making use of available resources can enhance your ability to cope with and manage the impact of floaters and flashes in your daily life.

Summary

In conclusion, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments for floaters and flashes is crucial for maintaining optimal eye health. By being aware of risk factors, seeking regular eye exams, and promptly consulting an eye specialist when necessary, you can take proactive steps to protect your vision. Remember, early detection and treatment are paramount in preventing permanent vision loss and other complications associated with floaters and flashes.

Eye Floaters FAQ

 

Q: What are eye floaters?

A: Eye floaters are small black or wisp-like shapes entering your field of vision. They may appear to be in front of the eye, but they are the shadows of cells and fibers inside the vitreous, the gel-like material inside the eye. It is most common to notice floaters when looking at a plain surface. Eye floaters may appear as:

  • Spots
  • Specks
  • Lines
  • Circles
  • Cobwebs

Q: What causes eye floaters?

A: The vitreous consists of a gel-like substance that maintains the eye’s round shape and makes up most of the eye’s interiorAging causes the vitreous to thicken and shrink, sometimes causing clumps to form. These clumps cast shadows onto the retina, and it is these shadows that cause the “floaters” to appear in your field of vision.

Usually, floaters are harmless; however, if they become more frequent and are accompanied by eye flashes, contact Dr. Conlon immediately, as this may be a sign of impending retinal detachment.

Q: Who gets eye floaters?

A: Floaters are very common. Aging causes clumping in the vitreous that leads to eye floaters. The following characteristics may also contribute to the presence of floaters:

    • Nearsightedness
    • Migraine headaches
    • Cataract surgery
    • Interior eye inflammation
    • Eye trauma

Q: What treatment is available for eye floaters?

A: Eye floaters often occur as harmless isolated instances, and looking up/down can move floaters out of your vision. Although floaters tend to go away without intervention, severe floaters can be surgically removed if necessary.

Eye Flashes FAQ

Q: What are eye flashes?

A: Eye flashes appear as light flashes/streaks, sometimes similar to a camera flash in the side of your vision.  the “stars” you experience upon a blow to the head. Flashes may a burst of light on one area, or several in varying areas.

Q: What causes eye flashes?

A: As aging causes vitreous shrinkage, the vitreous may remain partially attached to the retina. The shrinking causes the vitreous to pull on these portions of the retina, this is the most common reason you may see flashes in your vision.

Eye flashes may be a symptom of retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is when the retina pulls away from the outer layer of the eye.  The retina cannot function properly while detached from the back of the eye. This detachment can lead to permanent vision loss if untreated. Warning signs of retinal detachment include:

  • Light flashing
  • Sudden appearance of new floaters
  • Shadows in peripheral vision
  • Appearance of a grey “curtain” over your vision

Eye flashes may also be caused by inflammation in the eye or other neurologic conditions such as migraines. It is important to have your eyes examined if you are experiencing flashes in your vision.

Q: Who gets eye flashes?

A: Eye flashes occur as you age. Flashes may also be caused by physical force on the retina, such as hitting/rubbing your eye.