Are you seeing floaters and flashes?
Have you ever looked at a plain background like a wall or sky and seen small specks moving in your vision? If you answered yes, then you have probably seen a floater in your eye. Floaters are tiny particles floating in the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Although they can be a sign of a serious problem, spots and floaters are usually harmless and typically do not risk vision. They appear in various shapes and sizes and may look like thread strands or cobwebs. According to the American Optometric Association, these spots are caused by the thickening of the fluid in the back of the eye into small flecks of protein that are a natural part of the eye’s ageing process. However, they also can be the result of some eye diseases or injuries.
Flashing lights can be caused when the retina (the tissue that captures light so that you can see) is being pulled on. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, these flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months. There are two reasons this can occur. The first is a retinal detachment which is sight-threatening and needs immediate care to prevent permanent vision loss. The second and most common cause for these symptoms is a vitreal detachment.
The vitreous is the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. It is contained within a lining that connects to the retina. This lining pulls away from the retina in many people as early as their 50’s. In most cases, this separation occurs without any complication. However, in a small percentage of people the vitreal lining can pull up a piece of the retina; thus possibly leading to a retinal detachment. Since these symptoms are identical to a retinal detachment a retinal evaluation is a necessity.
If you ever experience flashing lights or an onset of new floaters make sure you contact your eye care professional right away. Your eye care professional will examine your eyes to determine the cause of your floaters. This is just one more reason that our doctors rotate call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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By: Jason Kolodziejczyk, O.D.
Dr. Kolodziejczyk is a practicing optometrist at the Eye Centers of Northwest Ohio, located at 2311 W Hayes Ave in Fremont, Ohio