Most people have experienced "floaters," which are those spots that float in your vision temporarily. Floaters can appear in a variety of shapes and sizes, but are not usually cause for concern. "Flashers," also called flashes, are flashes of light or lightning-like streaks in your vision. They tend to happen more frequently in men and women middle aged and older.
Floaters and flashers are not usually harmful, but if you are concerned about them, please do not hesitate to contact Kirk Eye Center at 708-397-8114 for an eye exam. If you are suddenly experiencing a lot more floaters and/or flashes than usual, this could be a medical emergency, and you should contact Kirk Eye Center or visit the emergency room as soon as possible.
What Are Floaters?
Floaters occur when parts of the eye's vitreous break free and float loose. You are not actually seeing bits of vitreous gel; rather, you're seeing the shadows cast by it. It's common for this to happen as we get older, and it is not usually dangerous. In addition, people who are nearsighted or who have had cataract surgery are more susceptible to floaters.
The reason floaters happen as we get older is because the vitreous, which normally has a gel-like consistency, begins to gradually break down and become more like a liquid in the center. As bits of the vitreous that are still gel-like float through the liquid center, they cast shadows over our vision, leading to floaters.
What Are Flashers?
Flashes can occur for a number of reasons, including:
- Displacement of the retina
- Hitting the head hard enough to jostle the vitreous
When the retina is disturbed in any way, it sends a signal to the brain that is interpreted as a flash of light. The vitreous gel in the eye can occasionally touch the retina, leading to a flash. Typically, this is not a cause for alarm; however, if the retina is disturbed enough to begin to tear or detach, this is an emergency. If you see many new flashes at once, you should immediately call an eye doctor, as it could be a sign of retinal detachment. Other signs of retinal detachment can include a shower of new floaters, shadows in your peripheral vision, or a "curtain" drawing over your vision.
People who suffer from migraines may experience jagged flashes of light at the onset of a migraine. The cause of these flashes of light is due to sudden spasming of blood vessels in the brain, rather than retinal disturbance.
When Should You See An Eye Doctor For Floaters or Flashes?
Small amounts of floaters and occasional flashes are common and not typically dangerous. However, if you have a sudden onset of new floaters and multiple flashes, it's time to call the eye doctor, as this could be a sign of retinal tearing or detachment.
There are treatments available for retinal tears and retinal detachment, and vision can often be saved if treated early enough. If not treated, retinal tears can lead to retinal detachment, which in turn can lead to blindness.
Schedule Your Eye Exam Today
If you are concerned about your floaters or flashes, call Kirk Eye Center today at 708-397-8114 to schedule your appointment. Our experienced eye doctors will examine your eyes carefully and give you advice on how to maintain your eye health and vision. We serve patients in the greater Chicago area, including River Forest, Oak Park, Cicero, and Naperville.