LASIK - Laser Eye Surgery
New Multifocal Lens Implants
Eyelid Plastic Surgery
Flashes & Floaters
What are flashes and floaters?
Throughout the course of your life you may experience what many people describe as small specks of dust or cell like organisms floating across their vision. If you examine this situation closely you might also find that they move as your eye moves and blinking has relatively no impact on clearing vision. Almost everyone sees flashes and floaters at some time, but they can occur more frequently and become more noticeable as we get older. Despite the fact that these floaters appear to be in front of your eye, they are actually floating within the vitreous inside your eye. Understanding the relationship of this vitreous and your retina will be the key to unlocking the severity of this condition.
The vitreous is a thick, transparent substance that fills the center of the eye. The vitreous is a gel composed primarily of water and makes up about two-thirds of the eye's volume, thus giving the eye its shape.
Floaters are caused by small particles deposited in the vitreous. As we get older, more commonly in nearsighted eyes, the vitreous shrinks and can pull off the back of the eye. This posterior vitreous detachment can pull off some particles and the patient will see new floaters.
Flashes (quick lasting only a second) are often caused by the vitreous pulling on the retina during a posterior vitreous detachment. If a weak spot exists, a retinal tear may develop.
Longer flashing lights (ten to thirty minutes) may be caused by neurological problems such as a migraine headache.
The importance of eye exams relating to flashes and floaters
New flashes or floaters require a dilated retinal exam looking for retinal breaks. If no breaks develop, no treatment is indicated as the flashes tend to resolve and the floaters fade over time. It is important to treat retinal breaks before they progress into a retinal detachment. Our doctors are sensitive to this scenario and urge all of our patients to come into the office for a dilated exam involving more specific tests.