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Home » News » Eye Floaters & Flashes: When Are They a Problem?

Eye Floaters & Flashes: When Are They a Problem?

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Guidelines from our center for eye care in Cedar Park

For many people, the sight of squiggly threads or cloudy specks floating across their vision is a normal occurrence. Flashes of light that appear like flickering or gliding sparks are also common. If you’ve had these floaters and flashes for a while, you probably got used to them and barely even notice their presence. But once in a while, when they travel across the white page you’re reading, you may wonder about them. What are eye floaters and flashes, and are they ever a sign that you need to find immediate eye care near you?

Introducing flashes and floaters

To understand what these visions are, you need a basic comprehension of what’s going on inside your eye. Our Cedar Park eye care specialist explains:

Your eyeball is filled with vitreous humor, a clear and stable gel (like an egg white). When light enters your eye, it through the lens to reach the retina. This journey passes through the vitreous gel. Once light gets to your retina, the light-sensitive cells capture the image and send it to your brain via your optic nerve.

As you age, the vitreous humor shrinks and the texture changes to become stringier. This transformation can cause clusters of cells or bits of protein to form in the vitreous humor – known as floaters. When you see a floater, you are actually seeing the shadow of these clusters on your retina. That’s why when you move your eye (and the vitreous gel within it), the floater also moves. If you ever try to zoom in on your floaters and look at them head-on, they will seem to glide away. But when you stop moving your eyeball, they’ll simply drift around slowly.

Flashes – which are harmless – occur when the vitreous gel tugs or bumps against your retina. They can also be accompanied by headaches, dizziness and nausea, which are also common signs of a binocular vision dysfunction. We specialize in precise diagnosis at our optometrist’s office for eye care in Cedar Park, and we’ll perform a comprehensive eye exam to identify your specific problem.

Does everyone see flashes and floaters?

Not quite everyone, but a lot of people do! Our eye doctor diagnoses these specks all the time, especially in patients above the age of 60. And about two-thirds of the elderly population above 80 years of age has them. Floaters tend to be more common in people with nearsightedness, diabetes, and those who had an eye injury or cataract surgery.

When are floaters and flashes a medical concern?

While the majority of flashes and floaters are harmless and do not need any treatment, sometimes they are a warning sign of a sight-threatening eye condition. In particular, it is important to seek emergency eye care near you when a bunch of new floaters comes on suddenly.

As the vitreous gel shrinks, it can tug against the retina and detach from it. This occurrence, called a posterior vitreous detachment, is relatively common and doesn’t damage vision. However, in about one in six people, it leads to a retinal tear. Once you have a retinal tear, the fluid from inside your eye may leak through the tear – causing the retina to separate from the supportive tissues around it. Retinal detachment is painless, yet it requires immediate medical attention.

If you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Seeing a bunch of new floaters appear suddenly, with or without flashes in the same eye
  • Peripheral vision loss
  • Gradual shading of your vision, similar to a curtain being pulled across your field of view
  • Quick blurring of your central vision

Don’t delay – visit Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine for an urgent eye exam near you!

Is there a treatment for benign flashes and floaters?

Usually, people tolerate these little visions without too much of a problem and get used to having them around. However, some people are extremely bothered by floaters and flashes and feel that they interfere with their ability to read. In that case, there is a type of laser treatment – but it has not yet been studied extensively, and the risks of the surgery may be greater than the disruptions caused by floaters.

When your floaters annoy you, our Cedar Park eye care specialist recommends moving your eyes up and down, right and left. This simple action can shift the floater out of sight temporarily, providing relief.

If you’re concerned about your flashes and floaters, our eye doctor will perform a thorough eye exam near you to inspect your vision and ocular health to verify that there’s no reason for urgent medical treatment. At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we offer treatment for many eye conditions, including for binocular vision dysfunction and vision misalignments. Call your leading provider of eye care in Cedar Park to book an appointment.

At Lakeline NeuroVisual Medicine, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 512-918-3937 or book an appointment online to see one of our Austin eye doctors.

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