Flashes and Floaters in Your Vision?

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Have you ever noticed tiny specks or threads drifting across your field of vision? Or perhaps sudden flashes of light that seem to come out of nowhere? These visual disturbances, known as flashes and floaters, can be alarming if you’re unfamiliar with them. However, they are often benign and temporary phenomena that occur within the eye. Let’s delve into the world of ophthalmology to understand what flashes and floaters are, what causes them, and when they might signal a more serious issue.

What are Flashes and Floaters?

Flashes and floaters are common visual phenomena that occur within the vitreous humor, the gel-like substance that fills the space between the lens and the retina in the eye. Here’s a brief overview of each:

Floaters: Floaters appear as tiny specks, threads, or cobweb-like shapes that drift across your field of vision. They are more noticeable when looking at a plain, bright background such as a blue sky or a white wall. Floaters are actually shadows cast on the retina by small clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous humor. They move as your eyes move and tend to drift away when you try to look directly at them.

Flashes: Flashes of light are brief bursts of brightness that appear in your vision, often at the edges. They may resemble lightning bolts or flickering sparks and can occur spontaneously or in response to eye movement. Flashes are caused by the stimulation of the retina’s light-sensitive cells, which can happen when the vitreous humor tugs or rubs against the retina.

Causes of Flashes and Floaters:

While flashes and floaters are usually harmless, they can sometimes indicate underlying eye conditions or health issues. Here are some common causes:

  1. Age-related Changes: As we age, the vitreous humor undergoes changes in its consistency and structure. The gel may liquefy and shrink, causing it to pull away from the retina (a process called posterior vitreous detachment). This detachment can lead to the formation of floaters and occasionally trigger flashes of light.
  2. Vitreous Hemorrhage: In some cases, bleeding into the vitreous humor due to conditions such as diabetic retinopathy or trauma can cause the appearance of floaters. This is often accompanied by flashes of light.
  3. Retinal Detachment: A sudden increase in floaters accompanied by flashes of light, along with a shadow or curtain-like obstruction in your peripheral vision, could indicate a retinal detachment. This is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss.
  4. Migraines: Some individuals experience visual disturbances, including flashes of light, as part of a migraine aura. These flashes are typically temporary and resolve once the migraine attack subsides.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

While most flashes and floaters are harmless, it’s essential to be aware of warning signs that may indicate a more serious problem. Seek prompt medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • A sudden increase in the number of floaters
  • Flashes of light accompanied by a shadow or curtain-like obstruction in your vision
  • Loss of peripheral or side vision
  • Sudden onset of blurry vision or vision change

We understand vision changes can be very scary. If you have noticed an increase in visual floaters or have experienced flashes of light in your vision, Don’t be afraid to come in for a visit. While these changes are often more annoying than harmful, they can be the sign of more serious underlying disease. Only a complete dilated eye exam can determine the cause of your symptoms. Please call us at the Orchard Eye Center to schedule your evaluation – 801-658-5486

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