The term “floaters” refers to tiny specks, spots, or circles that drift throughout your field of vision. Annoying as they may be, floaters are usually harmless to a person’s vision.
Flashing lights or lightning streaks are referred to as flashes. Flashes are best described as the sensation experienced after being hit in the eye or head and seeing “stars”.
Causes of Flashes and Floaters
With age, it is more common to experience floaters and flashes. As we grow older, the vitreous gel within the eye begins to pull away from the back wall. As it begins to shrink and pull away, small clumps or strands of cells may form within the eye. This is a common cause of floaters.
The above processes is called posterior vitreous detachment. Flashes occur when pressure is being applied to your retina while PVD takes place. Flashes should subside after the vitreous finally detaches. If they do not, they could be a warning sign of a retinal detachment.
An eye examination should be scheduled with the optometrist immediately if any of the following symptoms are experienced:
- Large floater or showers of floaters appearing suddenly
- Sudden persistent flashes of light
- Sensation of a curtain appearing in your periphery
- A gray curtain moving across your field of vision
- A sudden decrease in vision
Flashes & Floaters Diagnosis
When the optometrist examines you, eyedrops will be used to dilate your pupils. By doing so, the optometrist will be able to see areas of your eye better (such as the retina and vitreous).
The examination is painless and will allow for the Optometrist to determine whether or not your case of flashes and floaters is harmless or potentially dangerous. It is important to schedule an eye examination after experiencing any of the symptoms above to ensure they are not caused by a retinal detachment.
When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled away from its normal position. If not treated immediately, a retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.
Floaters may be treated by an in-office procedure called laser vitreolysis. During the procedure, a laser beam is projected into the eye through the pupil and focused on large floaters. The laser breaks them apart and vaporizes them so they disappear or become less bothersome.
the optometrist will consider several factors such as age, symptoms, location of your floaters, and what they look like before determining if you can benefit from laser vitreolysis.
Retinal detachments can be treated with laser surgery within the Optometrist’s office. The laser makes tiny burns around the detachment to “weld” the retina back into place.