Flashes And Floaters
What are flashes and floaters?
Flashes and floaters are relatively common conditions that occur as we grow older. They are not always serious but do warrant a visit to the eye doctor to evaluate retinal health. Flashes and floaters do not occur simultaneously. Some people experience one and never the other. In most cases, neither indicates a serious eye problem. They are more often considered a result of eye aging.
What are the symptoms of flashes and floaters?
Floaters look like specks moving across the field of vision. If you look at a blank wall or the sky, you may notice them more clearly. Sometimes they look like multiple dots floating from one direction to the other. Sometimes they look like a tiny web on the eye. Floaters are not outside of the eye, they are shadows that are cast on the retina at the back of the eye. These shadows are cast when small strands of the vitreous gel that makes up the center of the eye break off and move.
Flashes look like flashing light or streaks of light in the field of vision. Sometimes, flashes occur when blinking. This sensation also occurs inside the eye. It happens when the changing vitreous in the center of the eye begins to pull on the retina at the back of the eye. Severe, sudden flashes in the eye can indicate a retinal tear or detachment, a potentially serious problem. If you experience sudden flashes, contact our office right away.
How are flashes and floaters diagnosed?
Flashes and floaters are subjective. When they occur, an ophthalmologist conducts a thorough examination to observe the vitreous gel, the retina, and the optic nerve. A dilated eye exam takes less than an hour and provides a detailed view of these important structures. The doctor may also perform a quick test to measure the pressure inside the eye. In some cases, additional testing is performed to better understand the cause of floaters or flashes. All tests are explained in detail so patients know why they are being done and what they will show.
How do you treat eye floaters and flashes?
Sometimes, floaters and flashes require no treatment. The doctor may monitor these symptoms from one eye exam to the next. If treatment is necessary, it is determined by the condition that is causing the visual symptoms. Floaters may eventually go away and reappear later due to the aging of the eye. Flashes may require prompt treatment to repair a retinal tear or detachment. This may be achieved with a laser procedure performed in the office. If the retina has detached, a minor surgical procedure, such as scleral buckling or vitrectomy may be necessary to prevent vision loss.
When is medical attention necessary for flashes and floaters?
A rapid increase in the number of severity of flashes or floaters warrants a thorough eye examination. The doctor will perform a dilated eye exam to view the retina and confirm or rule out a tear or detachment. If either is identified, treatment may take place during the same visit.
Can stress cause floaters?
Stress may be a factor in general eye health but not on a grand scale. Stress alone cannot cause floaters. This problem occurs as a result of age-related degradation of the vitreous gel at the center of the eye.
How can I reduce flashes and floaters from occurring?
The best way to reduce the risk of flashes and floaters is to take good care of the eyes daily. Eye health tips include:
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fresh leafy greens and healthy fats. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that combat the free radicals that break down important bodily tissues. Healthy fats help reduce the risk of many eye conditions, including macular degeneration.
- Stay hydrated. The eyes rely on hydration not only for moisture but to help flush toxins from small vessels and tissues.
- Practice direct protection. The eyes respond to UV exposure. The rays of ultraviolet light that are present every time we go outdoors enter the eye and travel through it to the retina. UV light, as well as blue light, can break down the collagen and other structural matter that support optimal eye health.
- Rest the eyes. Digital eye strain is a common problem because most people use digital devices daily. The devices we stare into for hours a day emit blue light that can damage the retina. Devices also cause us to focus primarily up close, increasing the risk of vision changes. To reduce this risk, it is helpful to look away from screens every few minutes, changing the distance of vision from about a foot away to about twenty feet away.