What are Flashes and Floaters?
Flashes and floaters are a common but often bothersome phenomenon that occurs in many patients, especially as they age. While these visual effects are not typical signs of a more significant issue, it's still important to have your eyes evaluated by a professional if you notice them. Men and women with floaters usually take notice of them as they face a bright, white backdrop, like a computer screen. These floaters can look like micro-sized specks, tiny, black squiggles, or eyelashes that drift through your field of sight. However, instead of actual eyelashes or squiggles, what you're seeing is actually tiny specks of vitreous gel that have accumulated together. Meanwhile, flashes can appear as "stars," which you may have noticed or experienced when standing up too fast. Flashes can also be more pronounced and take the form of flashing lights. This visual effect is caused by a pulling of the retina by vitreous gel instead of your eye.
If you suddenly experience flashes or floaters or notice them getting worse, it's crucial to have your eyes assessed by a board-certified ophthalmologist, like those at The Eye Center of Central PA. Each member of our skilled team is thrilled to provide innovative and comprehensive solutions for a range of visual and eye health concerns at our locations throughout Central Pennsylvania.
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what are the signs?
Although flashes and floaters occur in a large number of individuals, they often worsen or become more pronounced as we age. Noticing a few floaters or an occasional flash is not typically an indication of a more serious issue. Still, if you notice any of the following, we encourage you to get in touch with one of our Central PA offices:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Regularly occurring flashes of light
- A sudden appearance of one new large floater
- “Shaded” vision, which can look like a cloud passing the sun
- An increase of many small floaters within your field of vision
what causes them?
Floaters and flashes often occur as we age because this is when the vitreous fluid in our eyes starts to thicken and shrink, causing clumping. This clumping creates the effect of floaters, or dark "squiggles," which cast shadows on the retina. Meanwhile, the shrinkage of vitrea is typically what leads to flashes. As the vitreous fluid decreases in size, it begins to pull or tug on the retina. The nerve cells then react to the tugging, which causes the flashes. There are also certain refractive surgeries, including LASIK, that may also cause a sudden increase in floaters, but this is not a pressing issue. An injury or trauma to the eye may also lead to floaters and flashes. In the case that you notice these kinds of visual effects, whatever the cause may be, we encourage you to seek out guidance from an eye professional, such as those on our team here at The Eye Center of Central PA.
During your visit to one of our Central PA offices, one of our knowledgeable eye surgeons will identify the cause of your flashes or floaters and let you know if treatment could be needed. For the majority of patients, we offer floater removal with a YAG laser through an advanced process known as vitreolysis. This technique targets the front surface of each floater and breaks them apart, which causes the floater to convert to hyaluronan and collagen molecules. These molecules are then reabsorbed into the eye.
If our ophthalmologist diagnoses you with a torn or detached retina, prompt medical treatment will be needed. The majority of detached retina problems can be improved with laser treatment. Our eye surgeons will work with you closely to ensure that you understand each one of your options before moving forward.
Repair and relief
Flashes and floaters are not typically a sign of a more significant issue; however, they can be bothersome and make patients feel anxious. If you've noticed an onset or increase of flashes and floaters in your field of vision and want to learn what they are or what may be the cause, we encourage you to get in touch with a member of our team at The Eye Center of Central PA. Our board-certified ophthalmologists are here to get to the root of your problem and work to improve your eye health and vision.