What are eye flashes and floaters? Are they cause for concern?
Many people see floating objects in their field of vision that may look like dark specks, droplets, hairs, insects, or cobwebs. Flashing lights are also an occasional complaint. Most of the time, these symptoms are merely annoying, but sometimes they may indicate a problem.
What causes these lights and spots in my vision?
The interior of the eye is filled with a clear, jelly-like substance called vitreous. With aging, the vitreous gel changes in consistency and begin to shift in position off of the retina. This shift in the position of the gel typically causes the symptoms of eye floaters. A change in the consistency and the position of the vitreous gel relative to the retina is normal. This process is referred to as a posterior vitreous detachment. THIS IS NOT A RETINAL DETACHMENT.
Are flashes and floaters ever serious?
As the vitreous separates from the retina, it may pull on the retina and cause a tear or hole in the retina to develop. This occurs in about 1 in 10 cases. A tear or hole in the retina can, in some cases, lead to more serious problems such as retinal detachment. Bleeding can also occur as the vitreous separates from the retina. Early detection of retinal pathology is critical, so it is imperative that a dilated examination be performed promptly after you experience these symptoms.
What should you do when you get new floaters and flashes?
When new eye floaters and flashes occur, it is imperative to promptly have a dilated examination with an ophthalmologist. If a retinal tear or hole is found, laser may be recommended. The floaters themselves do not need treatment. Over time, most people adjust to the presence of eye floaters, and they tend to become less noticeable.
Posterior vitreous detachment is more common for people who:
- are nearsighted
- have undergone cataract operations
- have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
- have had inflammation inside the eye
Call 301-657-5700 to schedule an appointment to evaluate your retina if you have recently experienced eye floaters or flashes.