Flashes and floaters are a normal part of your vision. You may see what looks like squiggles, dots, or flashes of lightning in your line of vision.
In most cases, seeing flashes and floaters is nothing you should be alarmed about, but they can be a sign of something more serious as well. Keep reading to learn more about what it means if you see flashes and floaters!
What are Floaters?
Floaters are parts of the vitreous that have solidified in your eye. The vitreous is the gel-like substance that’s located in the middle of your eye.
With age, the vitreous can start to shrink, leading to the development of seeing floaters in your eye. Floaters prevent light from entering the eye, creating tiny spots where you can’t see.
You only see floaters because they move in front of the macula, which is at the center of the retina. As they pass through the eye, they move around, meaning you may only see them for a few seconds at a time.
One of the most common reasons you’ll see floaters is aging. After the age of 60, seeing these becomes much more likely.
Most floaters will move or go away when you blink. They only become something to be concerned about if you begin developing more floaters than normal for no discernible reason.
You could have a few small floaters that go away or stay for the rest of your life. If you suddenly notice many new floaters, you may need to see an eye doctor right away.
The best thing that you can do is make an appointment with your ophthalmologist as soon as possible. If you’re suddenly seeing a large number of floaters, you could have a retinal detachment or tear. Left untreated, this can lead to permanent, irreversible vision loss.
As you age, you may start to see flashes of light. These momentary changes to your vision can look like strikes of lightning.
If you are not experiencing other problems with your vision, seeing flashes may simply be a symptom of getting older. But if you’re seeing flashes and floaters and your vision is also getting worse, this can be a sign of something more serious.
If you’re seeing an increase in flashes or floaters, or you’ve noticed any sudden changes to your vision, see your eye doctor. These could be some of the signs of conditions like a retinal tear or detachment.
Retinal Holes or Tears
Retinal tears are holes in the retina that allow fluid to leak into your field of vision. A retinal tear can occur if the vitreous pulls on the retina, causing a tear. A retinal hole can happen if the vitreous pulls on the retina, but it only causes a small hole, instead of a larger and more concerning tear.
Symptoms include suddenly seeing more floaters in your field of vision, as well as flashes of light. Retinal tears and retinal holes do not always have symptoms. Scheduling regular eye exams with your eye doctor will help diagnose this issue as soon as possible.
Age, severe nearsightedness, and a family history of retinal tears can make you more likely to develop them. Previous eye surgery or having any kind of eye trauma can also increase your risk.
Eye doctors treat retinal tears with a laser procedure called cryotherapy. Cryotherapy involves reattaching the tissue and preventing a retinal detachment. Your eye doctor may also use a freezing probe to create scar tissue and attach the retina to the side of the eye.
A retinal detachment happens when the retinal cells detach from blood vessels in the vitreous fluid. These vessels provide oxygen and nutrients to the eye. Without this nourishment, the fluid shrinks.
When the retina detaches, you likely won’t feel anything. You may notice a sudden increase in the number of floaters or flashes of light.
This can occur in one or both eyes right before a retinal detachment. You might also experience a shadow or limited peripheral vision as the condition advances.
People who are over the age of 50 have the highest likelihood of a retinal detachment occurring. The condition is genetic and can happen again if you’ve already experienced it.
Those who are extremely nearsighted or have had any kind of eye trauma or eye procedures are also at an increased risk.
Eye doctors treat retinal detachments with surgical procedures. Which surgical procedure they choose to perform will depend on the severity of the retinal detachment. They may inject gas or air into the vitreous cavity to push the retina against the side of the eye.
This positioning prevents the vitreous from leaking out of the eye. They then freeze the retina in place and close the hole by creating scar tissue.
You may also have the option to undergo scleral buckling. During this procedure, an eye doctor will sew a small piece of silicone over the sclera, which is the white part of the eye, to reduce internal pressure. This implant is permanent.
Those with more than one detachment can get a scleral buckle or a belt of silicone that covers all the torn areas. This unique patch stays in place for life and will not limit your vision.
An eye doctor may combine this procedure with a vitrectomy. During a vitrectomy, they will drain the vitreous and tissue incorrectly attached to the retina. Then, they inject silicone oil, gas, or air into the vitreous space to return the retina to its original position.
Over time, the body absorbs the implanted material. The natural vitreous fluid increases because it is no longer leaking. You may have the silicone oil removed after several months as it won’t reabsorb into the body.
If left untreated, a retinal detachment can cause permanent blindness. It’s important to contact your eye doctor immediately if you think you may have one.
Concerned about flashes and floaters? Schedule an appointment at Takle Eye Group in Griffin, GA, to learn more!