Flashers and Floaters

Sometimes people see small spots or specks moving in their field of vision or experience flashes of light.  These occurrences are called floaters and flashes.  Although annoying, floaters and flashed are generally of little importance.  However, in some cases, floaters and flashes may be the symptoms of a more serious eye problem, such as a retinal detachment.  

What is a floater?

A floater is a small clump of gel that forms in the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid which fills the cavity inside the eye.  Floaters may be seen as dots, lines, cobwebs, or spiders and are most often noticed when reading, looking at a blank wall or gazing at at clear sky.

Although floaters appear to be in front of the eye, they are actually floating in the fluid inside the eye.  Sometimes floaters do not interfere with vision at all.  However when a floater enters the line of vision, light is blocked and a shadow is cast on the retina.

What are flashes?

Flashes appear as flashing lights or lightning streaks in the field of vision, although no light is actually flashing.  Flashes are most often noticed at night or in a dark room.

Flashes are caused by the vitreous gel tugging on the retina.  If the gel actually separates from the retina, flashes of light may appear periodically for several weeks. Flashes which appear along with a large number of new floaters or with a loss of part of the field of vision may indicate retinal detachment, requiring an immediate eye exam. 

Prevention is the best medicine

Although floaters and flashes are usually not considered serious vision problems, one should have a complete eye examination to determine their importance.  In most cases, treatment is not necessary.  However, early detection and treatment of serious problems, such as retinal tears, can prevent permanent vision loss.

If you are experiencing floaters, flashes or other vision problems, you should obtain a complete eye examination.

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