Flashes & Floaters

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

What are Floaters?

Small specks or clouds moving in your vision are known as floaters. They are sometimes more noticeable when you are looking at a bright background, like a white wall or the blue sky. Floaters are tiny clumps of material moving inside the vitreous, which is the gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. Floaters can appear as different shapes such as cobwebs, clouds, circles, or little dots.

What causes flashes and floaters?

As we get older, it is very common to experience flashes and floaters as the vitreous gel changes with age, gradually pulling away from the retina. When the vitreous gel tugs on the retina, one may experience flashing lights. When the gel finally pulls free from the retina, one typically experiences floaters. This is known as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and this is the most common reason for seeing new floaters. This is not a serious problem.

PVDs occur naturally with age. They may occur at a younger age in people who: are nearsighted, have undergone cataract surgery, have had YAG laser eye surgery, have had inflammation inside the eye, or have had an injury to the eye.

Sometimes, the gel can tear the retina as it pulls away from the retina. This also results in flashes and floaters. A torn retina is a serious problem as it can lead to a retinal detachment, which requires immediate attention. One cannot tell the difference between a PVD and a torn retina without a dilated eye exam. This is why the retina should be examined as soon as possible if one develops new flashes and floaters.

Another cause of flashing lights is an ocular migraine. Typically one sees shimmering lights that go away in 20-30 minutes without the development of new floaters. Other less common causes of new floaters are bleeding and inflammation in the eye.  

Diagnosis of flashes and floaters

Your pupils will be dilated with eye drops so that the eye doctor can examine your vitreous and retina in detail. Retinal images may be taken as well to help with the diagnosis.

Treatment of flashes and floaters

Often floaters resulting from a PVD are harmless and they become less bothersome over time. Surgery or laser to remove floaters is rarely needed. If floaters are related to retinal tears or retinal detachment, immediate treatment either with lasers or surgery is required.

Request a Retina Consultation Now!

To learn more about the retina, the diagnosis of diseases, medical treatments, and surgical treatments for retinal diseases, please request an appointment or contact us for your exam at 303-279-6600.

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