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Flashes and Floaters



WHAT ARE FLASHES?

Flashes and FloatersFlashes are commonly triggered by a condition that causes the gel in the back of the eye to separate from the retina, which is the transparent tissue that lines the back of the eye.  A flash usually appears as a quick streak of light on the side of the field of vision.  It is normal to experience a flash from time to time.  However, persistent flashes may indicate that a problem is occurring inside of the eye.

WHAT ARE FLOATERS?

Floaters are small specks or dots that can be seen in your vision.  Floaters are caused by pieces of gel or other material inside the vitreous (gel that fills the inside of the eye).  Like flashes, it is normal to occasionally experience a floater, but if many floaters are suddenly seen, see your eye doctor immediately.

WHO IS AT RISK FOR FLASHES AND FLOATERS?

With age, comes an increase risk of flashes and floaters due the normal changes that occur in the vitreous.  People who are nearsighted or who have had prior eye surgery or an injury to the eye are also at increased risk.

HOW DO I KNOW IF FLASHES AND FLOATERS ARE SERIOUS?

Most often, seeing a few flashes and floaters is normal. But, a sudden increase in these may be a sign of a detachment of the vitreous or a tear or break in the retina.  A dilated examination by an eye care professional in indicated to determine the cause.

CAN FLASHES AND FLOATERS BE TREATED?

If flashes and floaters are caused by the normal separation of the gel from the back of the eye, then no treatment is indicated and most of the time the symptom will diminish with time.  If a tear in the retina is discovered, if untreated this can lead to a detachment and loss of vision.  If the tear is small, often it can be sealed with the use of a laser in the office.  If the tear is large, it may be necessary to have it repaired in the operating room.