Flashes and Floaters

Have you ever noticed specks or tiny spots that drift around your vision? These are known as floaters. For the most part, having floaters is common and nothing to worry about. However, as we age, floaters may become more frequent. Noticing floaters on a more frequent basis can be a sign of a bigger problem.

Many patients call our offices in Long Island with a complaint of new floaters in their vision. The vitreous body is the fluid that fills the back of the eye. The vitreous occupies the space between the retina and the lens of the eye.

As we age, the vitreous degenerates and becomes more watery. This is a natural process of aging. As the eyes get older, seeing more frequent floaters is likely.

 

Diagram of the Eye Showing Flashes and Floaters

Causes of Floaters

Many patients have floaters that look like small dark objects that move as we move our eyes. Floaters are usually seen during the day because they are easier to see when there is more light. When you see a floater, you are actually seeing a shadow of a particle in your eye. Floaters are not usually visually dangerous.

Visual Representation of Eye Floaters

When a patient sees a sudden increase in floaters or flashes of light that occur in their peripheral vision, this can be the sign of a posterior vitreous detachment. A posterior vitreous detachment occurs when the vitreous gel separates from the retina suddenly.

What Happens when the Retina Detaches?

The flashes of light represent the areas of gel that are still attached to the retina and when the gel pulls against the retina, the traction creates a flash of light. It is important to call your eye doctor when these symptoms occur because new floaters and flashes can be associated with a tear in the retina. A tear in the retina that is left untreated could lead to a retinal detachment.



The retina is similar to the film in a camera. It is a delicate tissue that lines the back of the eye. If a tear in the retina is discovered by our board certified eye doctors and eye surgeons, it is treated with a laser to close it.

A retinal tear left untreated can become a retinal detachment over time by fluid getting under the retina and lifting it up. A retinal detachment is a more serious eye problem that needs emergency eye surgery. When the retina detaches from the back of the eye, it can lead to permanent vision loss. A retinal detachment must be treated as soon as possible to save vision. Posterior vitreous detachments are serious, but usually benign in nature. It is important to be examined on an emergency basis to ensure that a retinal tear has not occurred. A PVD could eventually damage the retina. Damage to the retina could then lead to a tear, or detachment.

Treating Floaters

Having floaters can be annoying, but for some patients, they get in the way of seeing day to day things. If this is the case for you, it is possible to treat your bothersome floaters.

Until recently, the only way to treat floaters was with a procedure called a vitrectomy. A vitrectomy was only performed on patients that absolutely needed it, since there were serious side effects and complications associated with it.

Now, patients who are looking to treat their floaters can have a procedure called laser vitreolysis. Laser vitreolysis breaks up your floaters using a laser. Once the floaters have been broken up, you may see small black spots.

These are small gas bubbles and are a normal part of the procedure that should go away shortly. Your eyes may feel irritated while you are recovering from the procedure.

Don’t let floaters get in the way of living your life! Schedule an appointment with the SightMD team! With 23 convenient locations, SightMD makes eyecare easy. Book today!

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