Eye Floaters, Flashes, & Spots
Even if you have healthy eyes, you may occasionally see floaters, flashes, or spots in your vision. These visual disturbances may be harmless. However, they can also indicate a problem with your eyes. An ophthalmologist can determine if you should be concerned about floaters, flashes, and spots.
What are Floaters, Flashes, and Spots ?
Floaters are small specks or clouds in your vision. They are particularly noticeable when you’re looking at a plain background. These objects appear to be in front of your eyes. However, floaters consist of tiny clumps of cells inside your eye.
When you see a floater, you’re actually seeing the shadow it casts on your retina. Floaters can block the incoming light. They can be a variety of shapes, from tiny dots to large clouds.
Flashes occur when a gel-like substance, called the vitreous, pulls on your retina. As a result, you may see flashing lights and streaks.
What Causes Floaters, Flashes, and Spots ?
As you age, your vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the back of your eye. The material may clump, causing floaters. If the vitreous pulls on the retina, you may also see flashes.
Floaters, flashes, and spots are more common among patients with the following risk factors :
- Cataract surgery.
- Laser surgery.
- Eye injuries.
It can be alarming when you first see a floater, flash, or spot. It’s important to realize that it may not indicate a serious condition. However, it’s a good idea to contact your ophthalmologist, just to be safe.
Floaters, flashes, and spots can indicate that you have a retinal tear or detached retina. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam right away if you experience any of the following symptoms :
- Sudden and frequent appearance of floaters, flashes, or spots.
- Shadows in your peripheral vision.
- Grey spots in your field of vision.
- Sudden vision loss.
What are the Symptoms of Floaters, Flashes and Spots ?
Floaters look like small specks, spots, or clouds in your vision. The can have a variety of shapes, including dots, circles, lines, and cobwebs. A flash can look like a lightening bolt or streak.
Contracting blood vessels in your brain can cause you to see jagged lines of light. If you experience this symptom, you might be about to have a migraine headache. If you don’t get a headache, but still see flashes of jagged light, you might have had an ophthalmic migraine. Tell your ophthalmologist if you have similar symptoms.
How are Floaters, Flashes and Spots Diagnosed ?
Your ophthalmologist can examine your eyes to determine if floaters, flashes, and spots indicate a problem with your eyes. During the exam, your doctor will use special drops to dilate your pupils. This will allow your doctor to get a clear view of your eye structures, including the retina and vitreous.
How are Floaters, Flashes and Spots Treated ?
If your retina is torn or detached, you will need immediate treatment to preserve your vision. Torn or detached retinas can be treated with lasers or surgery. Your ophthalmologist can recommend the best treatment for your particular situation.
Your doctor may determine that your floaters, flashes, and spots are harmless. In that case, they are usually a minor inconvenience. Most floaters will fade over time.
Harmless floaters, flashes, and spots don’t usually require additional treatment. However, if your vision is severely impaired, you doctor may consider surgery.
The only way to remove floaters, flashes, and spots is to remove the vitreous and replace it with an artificial fluid.
If you have floaters, flashes, and spots, you should schedule a yearly eye exam. Contact your ophthalmologist immediately if you notice a sudden increase in floaters, flashes, or spots. This is especially important if you also have vision loss.
Your doctor can monitor the condition of your eyes and provide a treatment plan that will keep them healthy.