Flashes and floaters are very common and experiencing one or both at some point in your life shouldn’t be a source of anxiety. These occurrences are generally harmless, but it’s important to understand what to look for to identify when flashes and floaters could be signs of a more severe eye condition.
You may see flashes of light when the eye’s gel-like vitreous fluid changes consistency and pulls against the retina. This can be caused by a physical impact to the eye, from looking at a very bright light, or several other reasons. Symptoms of eye flashes tend to be bright spots of light that are only seen momentarily. While flashes should only be temporary and are not uncommon, you should consult an eye doctor if you see them frequently or if the flashes persist over a longer period of time.
Eye floaters appear as tiny spots or threads in your vision — almost like there’s a speck of dust slowly crossing your vision field — and are the result of debris moving through the vitreous fluid between the lens and the retina.
Symptoms of floaters can include:
Floaters and flashes are usually harmless. They’re usually caused by changes in the vitreous fluid due to aging. As we age, the vitreous fluid becomes more liquid and occasionally pulls away from the retina, causing flashes and floaters to form.
In some instances, floaters can be caused by the rupture of a small blood vessel in the eye. This will appear as a gray, cloudy spot in your vision, and can take weeks or even months to completely clear, but it’s ultimately a sign of a lasting eye condition.
Normally, eye flashes and floaters are completely normal. If they become more persistent or severe and you notice your vision suddenly becomes reduced, this could indicate a retinal tear or retinal detachment. Both are serious medical emergencies that require immediate attention from qualified eye specialists.
Eye flashes and floaters shouldn’t have a very large impact on your life. You may notice them occasionally, with their frequency increasing as you age. Again, these occurrences are normal and shouldn’t be a source of anxiety.
If you experience an increase in the number or frequency of the floaters or flashes you see, however, they can affect your daily life by obstructing your vision. In these cases, a vitrectomy may be performed.
There is no real way to prevent eye floaters and flashes from developing, but the good news is that they are generally harmless and largely unnoticeable. By knowing the signs and symptoms of retinal detachment and tears, you’ll be able to recognize if your flashes and floaters are more serious and require medical attention.
If you experience eye flashes and floaters on an occasional basis, then you don’t need any type of eye treatment. For some people, however, they can be numerous enough to have a significant effect on vision, which would then require a comprehensive eye exam and a possible vitrectomy.
A vitrectomy is an outpatient surgical procedure in which the vitreous fluid is removed and replaced with a clear saline solution. This will effectively clear floaters and prevent pulling on the retina, eliminating flashes as well.
Following your vitrectomy, you should go home and rest for at least 24 hours. Your eye doctor will schedule a follow up examination to ensure that there is no discomfort or inflammation present. Your full recovery should take one to two weeks.
After resting for 24 to 48 hours, you can resume normal activities. You should avoid high impact sports and other activities for a month or two until the eye is fully healed.
The eye care professionals at Eye Centers of Florida are extensively trained, so you know you’re getting only the very best treatment available. We can assist all your ocular health needs, including evaluating and treating your eye floaters and flashes.