Have you ever seen a sudden flash of bright light or noticed tiny specks floating in your vision? If you have, then you have experienced the visual disturbances known as flashes and floaters.
It certainly can be worrying to have your vision affected by flashes and floaters. While they both most often are the result of the normal aging of your eyes, they can be the sign of a more severe and vision-threatening eye condition.
To help you understand whether flashes and floaters could be dangerous for your vision, it’s essential to visit your eye doctor at Nevada Eye Physicians for an eye exam. Keep reading to learn if flashes and floaters are dangerous for your vision!
What are Flashes?
Flashes are the appearance of a brief, flickering sensation of light that occurs in your direct or peripheral field of vision. A flash usually appears as quick, bright arcs or streaks of light, but flashes can also appear as star-like specks.
Flashes often occur when you are in a dark room or looking at a bright light source, like halogen lights or sunlight. They can happen in a single burst in one visual field or in succession in multiple fields, appearing most often in your side or peripheral vision.
What Causes Flashes?
Flashes are typically caused by the vitreous, a gel-like substance inside the eye, pulling on the retina. A healthy, intact retina is essential for maintaining clear vision.
One of the most common causes of the vitreous pulling on the retina is age, as the vitreous shrinks over the course of time. The shrinking of the vitreous is a natural part of aging and is usually not harmful to your eyes.
In a small percentage of individuals, the process of the vitreous separating from the retina can cause minute tears, leading to more serious retinal detachment.
How Can Flashes Affect Vision?
While sometimes flashes are harmless, they can signify the presence of an eye condition, some of which can be vision threatening. Flashes can be caused by eye trauma, like being hit in the eye or rubbing your eyes, ocular migraines, or other types of migraine headaches.
If you have a sudden onset of flashes or an increase in the frequency of the flashes, it may be an indication that you have a retinal tear or detachment. Experiencing the sudden onset or an increased frequency of flashes is a sign that you should call your eye care provider right away.
How Are Flashes Treated?
Because they are usually harmless, flashes generally do not require specific treatment. Over time, most people get used to them and find them less and less bothersome.
If flashes are caused by a specific eye condition, effective treatment of that underlying condition can reduce or stop the appearance of flashes. The only way to know for sure if the flashes you see are harmless or the sign of a vision-threatening problem is to seek medical attention from your eye care provider as soon as possible.
What are Floaters?
Floaters are small, semi-transparent specks or shapes that appear to float in your field of vision. While they often may seem to be in the front of your eye, they are actually floating within the eye itself.
Floaters are usually most noticeable when you are looking at something that is a solid color, like a blank wall or a clear sky. Often the number of floaters you notice in your vision increases over time.
What Causes Floaters?
Floaters are very small clumps of protein cells that are floating around the gel within the eye, called the vitreous. These clumps block light from reaching the retina, creating shadows that are then seen as floaters.
Like with flashes, floaters are largely the result of changes within the vitreous. As the vitreous shrinks over time and pulls away from the retina, it is more likely to produce the free-floating clumps of protein that cause floaters.
How Can Floaters Affect Vision?
The annoying feeling of something constantly being in your line of vision is likely the most significant way that floaters impact your vision. However, floaters can also be a sign of impending retinal detachment.
This is especially true if you notice a large influx of floaters at once. For this reason, it is important to visit your eye doctor at Nevada Eye Physicians in Las Vegas, Nevada, today.
Certain individuals are at higher risk for developing floaters. You are more likely to experience floaters if you are near-sighted, are diabetic, have had recent surgery for cataracts, or have untreated inflammation or swelling inside your eye.
How are Floaters Treated?
Most often, floaters usually do not require specific treatment. Most individuals find that they fade over time, becoming less and less noticeable.
In rare cases, individuals with severe floaters can have them surgically removed, but this treatment is associated with a high level of risk to overall vision and is seldom recommended. If floaters are being caused by another eye condition, treatment of that condition may also eliminate floaters.
While it is usually perfectly normal and generally harmless to your vision to experience occasional flashes or floaters, any sudden or significant increase in these visual disturbances should be taken seriously. If you experience such changes in your vision, it is crucial to see your eye care provider promptly for a comprehensive eye examination to rule out any serious threats to your vision!
Are you concerned about flashes or floaters affecting the quality of your vision? Schedule an eye exam at Nevada Eye Physicians in Las Vegas, NV, today!