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Flashes and Floaters

Flashes and Floaters

"Flashes and floaters" is frequently used to describe a visual phenomenon associated with typically benign changes inside of the eye. "Flashes" are described like sparklers on the 4th of the July. "Floaters" are described like dust particles or spider webs in the patient's vision.

  • Causes of "Flashes and Floaters"

    • Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) is the most common cause of flashes and floaters. A PVD is when the vitreous (the gel that fills the eye) liquifies, shrinks and pulls away from the retina. As the vitreous pulls away from the retina it causes the signature "flashes" of light. As the vitreous liquefies it creates "floaters" in the gel which can be seen in the vision. 

    • Vitreous Hemorrhage describes bleeding inside the eye and is a less common cause of floaters. Vitreous hemorrhages can be caused by diabetic retinopathy, retinal tears or detachments, and vascular abnormalities in the eye. 

    • Retinal Tear or Detachment describes a break in the retina and is another less common cause of flashes and floaters. This break can allow fluid to accumulate under the retina and lead to a retinal detachment. 

  • What are the risk factors for PVD?​

    • Increased Age​: most are affected by the eighth decade. 

    • Myopia: being very near sighted can cause a PVD earlier.

    • History of Inflammation in the Eye

    • History of Cataract Surgery

  • Are there any treatments?​

    • Typically no treatments are necessary when PVD is the cause of the flashes and floaters. If symptoms are due to the less common causes: vitreous hemorrhage or retinal tear/detachment​ these may need medical or surgical treatment. 

  • What should I do if I experience flashes or floaters?

    • Although the most common cause is due to a benign PVD, the only way to rule out the more serious causes (vitreous hemorrhage or retinal tear/detachment) is to have an exam. ​

    • Should you experience flashes or floaters, you should contact our clinic for an evaluation to rule out the more serious causes. 

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