Flashes and Floaters

Floaters appear as little specks that float about in a person’s field of vision. They are generally small, dark, shadowy shapes that look like spots or squiggly lines, and move as the eye moves. Floaters appear to dart away if a person tries to look at them directly, and become more noticeable when looking at something bright.

Floaters occur generally as part of the aging process. The vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the eye to maintain a round shape, begins to shrink with age. As the vitreous shrinks it becomes stringy and the strands can cast tiny shadows in the retina, producing floaters. These floaters are not dangerous. They can be distracting at first, but eventually tend to “settle” at the bottom of the eye. However, your ophthalmologist should always check out floaters, since they can also be caused by more serious conditions such as infection, inflammation, retinal tears and injury to the eye.

Sometimes a sudden increase in floaters can be accompanied by what is known as flashes. Flashes are quick flashes of light that occur within the peripheral vision; if they are accompanied by a sudden increase or change in floaters, they could be an indication of retinal detachment. This occurs when part of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue, is lifted from its normal position.

Retinal detachment is a serious condition and could, if untreated, lead to permanent visual impairment within two to three days. If you suspect that you may have a retinal detachment, please consult with a University Eye Specialists, P.C. ophthalmologist immediately.