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Flashes & Floaters

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Eye Floaters & Flashes

Diagnosis & Management

Millions of Americans See Floaters in Their Vision. Are You One of Them?

Floaters – the squiggly lines that float in our vision – and flashes – the specks/streaks of light that sometimes appear in our vision – are two visual phenomena that most people will experience throughout their lives.

We see hundreds of patients every year that mention eye floaters or flashes in their vision. In most cases these are harmless (irritating, maybe, but not medically dangerous). Of course, many serious eye diseases and conditions have floaters as a symptom, making their appearance worth investigating.

When Should You See an Optometrist About Your Floaters/Flashes?

If you’re experiencing a new series of floaters, or if you’re seeing flashes of light in your vision, please make an appointment to see Dr. Baldwin as soon as possible. While likely harmless, certain vision-threatening diseases may present floaters/flashes as a symptom.

Schedule an appointment to have your floaters/flashes assessed.

More About Flashes & Floaters

Flashes

Sometimes called “flashers” or “seeing stars”, flashes of light occur in our vision when the retina is physically stimulated. The retina is the part of the eye loaded with light-sensitive cells. These cells take light stimulation and transmit it to the brain via the optic nerve.

When these light sensitive cells are manipulated physically, that stimulus is sent to the brain via the optic nerve- this stimulus is what we see as “flashes” in our vision.

Causes

The most common cause of flashes is physical contact, such as being tackled in hockey or hitting your head on something. The vitreous breaking away from the retina can also cause flashes to appear.

New instance of flashes should be investigated by an optometrist. If you see a change in the frequency of your flashes, or if they appear almost like fireworks, you should see Dr. Baldwin as soon as possible.

Floaters

Almost everyone will complain about seeing eye floaters in their vision at least once (a famous animated baby even wrote a poem about them). They are made of natural proteins that are suspended inside your eye fluid and are naturally occuring (increasingly moreso with age).

Causes

Inside your eye is a gel-like substance called the vitreous. As we age, the vitreous changes consistency somewhat, becoming more liquid. Microscopic clumps of protein form in this liquid, casting a shadow onto the retina as light passes into the eye. These are what become the floaters in our vision.

Floaters are usually harmless- a natural part of getting older.

However, a sudden and significant increase in the volume of floaters should be investigated by an eye care professional (like Dr. Baldwin) immediately. A sudden increase in floaters may be indicative of a developing eye disease or other eye condition (including a retinal tear or detachment).

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