Floaters & Flashes

Get Retina Evaluation & Treatment at Green Apple Eye Care
 

What Are Floaters?

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You may sometimes see small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky.

Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel, fibers or cells inside the vitreous, the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. While these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside it. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina. Floaters can appear as different shapes such as little dots, circles, clouds, or cobwebs.

What Causes Floaters?

When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps of strands inside the eye. A common cause of floaters is when the vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This detachment is more common in people who:
  • Are nearsighted
  • Have undergone cataract operations
  • Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • Have had inflammation inside the eye

The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop very suddenly. You should contact Green Apple Eye Care to schedule an appointment with Dr. Memmen right away if you develop new floaters, especially if you are over 45 years of age.

Are Floaters Ever Serious?

The retina can tear if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters. A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment.

The retina cannot function when detached from the back of the eye and retinal detachment will almost always cause blindness unless treated with surgery.

You should see Dr. Memmen as soon a possible if you suddenly see flashes of light or if you notice loss of side vision.

Can Floaters Be Removed?

Most floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome, requiring no treatment. Surgery to remove floaters is almost never required.

However, when floaters are symptomatic of a tear in the retina, this is a serious problem. If a retinal tear is not treated, the retina may detach from the back of the eye completely. The only treatment for a detached retina is eye surgery.

Vitamin therapy will NOT cause floaters to disappear. Even if you have had floaters for years, you should schedule an eye examination with Dr. Memmen if you suddenly notice new ones.

What Are Flashes and What Causes Flashing Lights?

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When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what looks like flashing lights or lightning streaks. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars.” The flashes of light appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, you are more likely to experience flashes. If you notice the sudden appearance of light flashes, you should contact Green Apple Eye Care to schedule an appointment with Dr. Memmen immediately in case the retina has been torn.

Migraine

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Many people experience flashes of light that appear as jagged lines or “heat waves.” They typically occur in both eyes and last 10 to 20 minutes. These types of flashes are usually caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, which is called a migraine. If headaches follow the flashes, it is called a migraine headache.
However, jagged lines or “heat waves” can occur without a headache. In this case, the light flashes are called ophthalmic migraine, or migraine without a headache. Contact Green Apple Eye Care to schedule an appointment with Dr. Memmen if you experience these symptoms.

How Are My Eyes Examined?

When Dr. Memmen examines your eyes, your pupils may be dilated with eye drops. During this painless examination, he will carefully observe different areas of your eyes, including the retina and vitreous.

Floaters and flashes of light become more common as we grow older. While not all floaters and flashes are serious, you should always have a medical eye examination to make sure there has been no damage to your retina.


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