Flashes and Floaters

Flashes and Floaters

What are floaters?

Often, people who have healthy eyes see floaters. They appear as spots, lines or cobweb effects, usually when you look at a plain surface such as a white wall or a clear blue sky. They often appear when the clear jelly in the main part of your eye gets older.

What are flashes?

Sometimes the jelly in the main part of your eye shrinks a little and tugs on the retina (the light-sensitive layer) at the back of your eye. This can cause flashes of light at the edge of your vision. These differ from the disturbance of vision that can occur with migraine.

When should I be concerned?

If you suddenly notice a shower of new floaters, or floaters along with flashes or a dark shadow or “curtain” in your vision, then you should seek advice urgently. These symptoms can mean that the retina is tearing. Go to an Accident and Emergency Department if necessary.

What will happen if the retina tears?

The retina is at the back of your eye. It receives the images and sends them to the brain. This is one of the things that enable you to see. If the retina tears, it may come away from the back wall of the eye. This is called retinal detachment. It can result in partial or complete loss of vision.

How is retinal detachment treated?

A tear may be treated by using a laser. If treated quickly, you may have a better chance of full recovery. However, if your retina has become detached, you will need surgery. The operation may restore most of your vision but may come too late for a full recovery.

Look out for:

  • flashes or floaters getting worse
  • a black shadow in your vision
  • a sudden cloud of spots
  • a curtain or veil over your vision
  • any sudden loss of vision.

You should seek urgent attention by eye specialist.

Laser Vitreolysis

Recently, a laser procedure called laser vitreolysis has been introduced that is a much safer alternative to vitrectomy for eye floater treatment. In this in-office procedure, a laser beam is projected into the eye through the pupil and is focused on large floaters, which breaks them apart and/or frequently vaporizes them so they disappear or become much less bothersome.

Laser vitreolysis usually is pain-free and can be performed at THE EYE INFIRMARY. Just prior to the treatment, anesthetic eye drops are applied and a special type of contact lens is placed on your eye. Then, the doctor will look through a biomicroscope (slit lamp) to precisely deliver the laser energy to the floaters being treated.

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