Eye floaters and flashes are experienced by just about all of us, especially as we get older.
Floaters and flashes are tiny spots or lines that look like they’re in front of your eye, but they are actually floating inside it. Flashes, which look like streaks of lightning, are more common with age. Most of the time, they are not cause for worry. But under certain circumstances, they will require immediate medical attention. Here’s what you need to know.
Eye Floaters and Flashers: What You Need To Know
Floaters appear as rings, whips, sheets, squiggles or other patterns. Sometimes they’re in the peripheral vision, other times they’re at the center, or both.
Floaters tend to move as the eye moves — and they’re easier to see on a solid color background, for example a blue sky or white wall. You might also see them after driving or reading which require frequent and quick side-to-side movements.
On the other hand, flashes are split-second bright white disturbances in the vision” that people describe as a lightning bolt. They look like arcs or small streaks, and come and go very quickly, sometimes just at the corner of the eye. They’re more noticeable in the dark, so people may not be aware of them during the day.
Eye Floaters And Flashes: Causes
Most of the time, both floaters and flashes are due to normal age-related changes in the gel structure called the vitreous, that fills the back of the eye and keeps the eye round.
When we’re young, the vitreous has a gel-like consistency. As we get older, it becomes more liquid, forming strands that move through the light pathway in front of the retina. What we then see are floating spots.
Either floaters or flashes can be signs of the gel separating from the back of the eye. This is more common after the age of 50. Suddenly, you will see more floaters and they’re much larger than before.
The people most at risk are nearsighted. That’s because their eyes are longer than average and the gel has to fill a larger space. This causes the development of strands and the gel becoming more liquid. Hence, you see more floaters.
People who have uncontrolled diabetes are also at higher risk because they may have bleeding in the retina, which can display as floaters.
And trauma, such as a car accident or a punch in the eye, can cause the gel to detach or tear. Also, a recent eye surgery, such as cataract surgery, can do the same.
The only time to worry is if there is a dramatic increase in floaters — if you’re seeing something that looks like a curtain right in front of you. This van indicate a retinal tear or detachment.
What You Should Do
If you notice this sudden change of vision, get to your eye doctor within 24 hours-or sooner.
Should the diagnosis be a retinal tear, a laser procedure can repair it. This can be done in the doctor’s office.
With a retinal detachment, the retina separates from the back wall of the eye, like wallpaper peeling off a wall. This is an emergency situation and must be treated immediately. If not, there is a great risk of permanent vision loss. According to the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS), retinal detachment repairs have a 90 percent success rate.