Flashes and Floaters in the Eye

by Sep 18, 2019

If you have experienced flashes of light in the side of your vision, or noticed dark spots float through your vision, you are not alone.  This is a relatively common experience, and most of the time these vision changes are caused by normal age-related changes occurring within the eye.  However, occasionally these flashes and floaters can be a sign that a more dangerous process is occurring in the back of the eye. The best way to determine whether or not your symptoms are part of a harmless visual phenomenon or a sign of a more dangerous condition is to visit your eye doctor and undergo a thorough health evaluation.  Here is more information about flashes and floaters, and what they mean about your ocular health. 


Floaters in Your Vision 

Many people will eventually begin to notice small dark spots, strings, or dots interrupting with their vision.  These are the result of a normal physiological process and are most commonly referred to by optometrists as “floaters.”  Floaters typically begin to form in middle age within a part of the eye known as the vitreous. The vitreous is a gel-like material that fills the inside of the eye, helping to give it shape and provide protection.  In youth, the vitreous is thicker and has a consistency similar to gelatin. Throughout life, the vitreous slowly begins to liquefy, resulting in clumps of the thicker gel within a more liquid vitreous. The clumps of vitreous that remain can cast shadows on the back of the eye, which is perceived as a floater.  So while it may seem like small objects are flying by in front of your eye, these floaters are actually occurring within the eyeball. Floaters are usually stable throughout life, though most people begin to find them less noticeable throughout the years. As they are a harmless finding, they do not require any treatment. 


Seeing Flashes

Occasionally, noticing sudden flashes in your side vision can also be a sign of changes occurring within the vitreous of the eye.  The vitreous is finely attached to the retina in several places. For the majority of people, these fine attachments slowly separate over time.  This usually occurs around age 60 or later. As the vitreous is detaching from the retina, it can pull slightly on the retinal tissue and stimulate the photoreceptors within the eye.  This stimulation leads to the perception of a flash of light, even when no true light is present. Most of the time the vitreous is able to safely and completely detach from the retina, and no more flashes will occur. The process of this separation is known as a Posterior Vitreous Detachment. 


Can Flashes and Floaters Be Dangerous?

In some unfortunate cases, a posterior vitreous detachment can lead to a more serious health problem.  If too much traction exists between the vitreous and the retina, the pulling force can result in a hole or tear in the retinal tissue.  If this occurs, serious problems such as a retinal detachment can result. A sudden increase in floaters, or a dramatic onset of flashes of light, may be a sign that dangerous process is occurring in the back of the eye.  In these cases, it is best to see your eye care provider. 

Our eye doctors, optometrists and staff at EyeDocs Family Eye Care excel in providing the highest quality eye exams in Brookville, Ohio for those with eye disease including symptoms of flashes and floaters in the eye and vision.  Call us at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality eye care services in the Brookville, OH 45309 area.

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