Flashes and Floaters: What Do They Mean?

  • Posted on: May 15 2020
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Do you ever feel like you’re seeing things? Meaning, do you ever feel like you’re seeing something drifting across the sky but it’s actually your vision? That something is sometimes referred to as a “floater” or piece of debris that’s inside your eye. This debris usually shows up when you’re looking into bright light or something white. Flashes usually accompany floaters but are reminiscent of a camera flash when you close your eyes. So at what point should you see an opthalmologist? We’ll go over some things to look for as well as what might cause your flashes and floaters.

Flashes and floaters can be caused by a variety of things like a detachment of the vitreous from the retina, which is the most common cause of floaters and flashes. A posterior vitreous detachment tends to naturally happen as we get older, usually in your mid to late 50s. When it happens in one eye, the other eye is usually soon to follow. A retinal tear or detachment is another common cause. This is usually a result of a vitreous detachment as well or near-sightedness, or any kind of trauma to the eye or eye surgery. Hemorrhages, infections, and inflammation can also cause flashes and floaters. Hemorrhages, if they’re small can sometimes go away on their own but larger ones would require surgery. Even tumors can cause flashes and floaters though these are less common.

So when is it time to see an ophthalmologist?

If you’re seeing floaters a lot or if the floaters are also occurring with flashes, it’s probably a good idea to schedule an appointment for an eye exam.

If you’ve had floaters for years and years though and they haven’t really changed, you’re probably fine to not schedule an appointment. If these have suddenly appeared or you have more than you used to, then you should probably come in.

Flashes tend to be more common than floaters but they can still signal a problem so if they are bothering you or seem like a cause for concern, it’s better to be safe than sorry. That irritation on the retina could be a sign that it’s tearing which could lead to bigger issues down the road.

Usually, flashes and floaters don’t turn out to be serious problems though, so don’t be afraid. If you’re in doubt, we’d love to chat with you about these issues and see what’s going on. Give us a call at (440) 286-1188 for our Chardon office or (440) 205-5840 for our Mentor location.

Posted in: Flashes And Floaters


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