woman rubbing her eyes glasses

Flashes and Floaters: When to See Your Doctor

When to Seek Treatment for Your Vision Impairment

Eye flashes and floaters are common and usually no cause for alarm for most patients. However, new flashes and floaters could be a symptom of a serious eye condition or an underlying health issue.

Keep reading to learn when to seek treatment, and how our team can help.

What Causes Floaters?

Floaters are typically the shadows of vitreous gel that you see when the vitreous gel that fills the eye separates from the retina. Floaters may also be from blood if you are experiencing a vitreous hemorrhage.

Floaters are a very common part of the natural aging process and can happen to either one or both of your eyes at different times. Over time, floaters may become less noticeable, but they do not typically dissolve. However, if you experience new floaters, it could be a sign of a retinal tear, retinal detachment, or vitreous hemorrhage. These are medical conditions that would require an urgent examination with your retina specialist.

What Do Floaters Look Like?

There are a number of ways a person could describe floaters to their doctor, as it depends on what you perceive the shadows to look like. However, the most common descriptions are:

  • Squiggly lines.
  • Spider-like shapes.
  • Thread-like strands.
  • Small shadowy shapes.
  • Black or very dark spots.

What Causes Flashes?

Flashes occur when the vitreous gel pulls on the underlying retinal tissues and causes a flash of light. Other causes include ocular migraine.

If the vitreous pulls the retina, it can cause a retinal tear or retinal detachment. This pulling causes flashes of light and an untreated retinal detachment will lead to eventual vision loss.

What Do Flashes Look Like?

Eye flashes are best described as points of bright light in your vision. This may be similarly compared to a lightning strike or the flash that comes from a camera.

Increased Risk Factors

There are some medical conditions that can increase your chances of developing both floaters and flashes, including:

  • Retinal tears or Detachment
  • Diabetic retinopathy.
  • Inflammation at the back of the eye (posterior uveitis).
  • Infection or inflammatory disease.
  • Bleeding in the eye caused by diabetes, high blood pressure, or blocked blood vessels.
  • Being aged 50 or older.
  • Being nearsighted.
  • Regularly suffering from migraines.
  • Previously undergone surgery to correct cataracts.

How Our Team at California Oculoplastics and Retina Can Help

If you start noticing flashes and floaters in your eyes, it’s essential to seek treatment right away.

Flashes and floaters could be a sign of a serious vision problem, such as a detached retina. If you have a detached or torn retina, you’ll need immediate treatment. At California Oculoplastics and Retina, our team can perform a few different procedures to correct the issue:

Laser Photocoagulation

This is typically an office-based procedure used to treat a retinal tear. There is little to no downtime and minimal restrictions if any. A laser lens is placed on the eye to keep your eyelids open and the laser is applied around the retinal tear to create a barrier and prevent the tear from turning into a retinal detachment. You will be able to go home immediately.

Vitrectomy

A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure where small instruments are used to remove the vitreous gel, and repair and flatten areas where the retina has become detached, or repair tears or holes in the retina or macula. The eye is typically filled with intraocular gas or silicone oil afterward. You may need to position after surgery.

Scleral Buckling Surgery

A scleral buckling surgery is a type of eye surgery that is commonly used to correct a detached retina and restore vision.

During a scleral buckling surgery, a silicone scleral buckle is placed on the outside of the eye to the retina in place and reattach the retinal detachment. The scleral buckle typically stays in place.

If you believe you have a detached retina and might require a scleral buckling surgery or one of our other services, call us today at (626) 609-7551 or contact us online.

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