Flashes & Floaters Overview – Treatments in Brisbane, Booval, Aspley & Wynnum
If you have ever looked at a bright sky or a white wall and noticed small specks or strands that appear to float in front of you, you have experienced eye floaters.
Most floaters are completely harmless and a natural byproduct of the aging process. However, if you suddenly notice an increase in the number or size of floaters, or they are accompanied by flashes — streaks of light that appear to flash in front of your eyes — it could indicate a problem. For peace of mind, promptly consult with the team at The Eye Health Centre to determine the root cause of the floaters and/or flashes and, if necessary, explore treatment options.
What Are Floaters and Flashes?
Floaters occur when the normally gelatinous vitreous of the eye shrinks or thickens with advancing age. Clumps or strands of cells can form and float around in the vitreous, casting shadows on the retina that the eye perceives as objects drifting throughout the visual field. Floaters are especially noticeable against a plain or bright background.
The shrinking or thickening vitreous can also rub or pull on the retina. The pulling causes the retina to send electrical impulses to the brain; the brain perceives these as flashing or flickering lights that appear to streak across the visual field. These are known as flashes.
Risk Factors for Floaters and Flashes
Floaters and flashes most commonly affect middle-aged adults. They are also more common in individuals who are nearsighted or who have had cataract surgery, an eye injury or inflammation or swelling inside the eye. Diabetics are also slightly more likely to get floaters.
Flashes are sometimes caused by migraine headaches.
When Should Floaters and Flashes be Evaluated?
Though occasional floaters are usually nothing to worry about, sometimes they are a warning sign of retinal detachment, a serious problem requiring immediate medical attention. Retinal detachment describes the retina being pulled or tugged out of its normal position along the inner back wall of the eye.
If you experience a sudden increase in new floaters, floaters accompanied by flashes, shadows in your peripheral vision or a gradual shadowing of vision from one side of your visual field (i.e., similar to a curtain being drawn), our retinal specialists encourage you to get screened by a doctor right away.
Floaters and Flashes Treatment Options
Floaters and flashes are treated by addressing the condition causing them. For instance, if your flashes are linked to migraines, getting help for migraines should help resolve flashes. Or, if you have a retinal tear or detachment, repairing the problem should reduce or resolve the floaters or flashes.
Frequent or prominent floaters that obstruct vision and interfere with activities of daily living can be treated with a procedure called vitrectomy. During vitrectomy, the gel-like vitreous is removed from the eye and replaced with a gas bubble or another type of solution. Another option is to use a laser to vaporize groupings of floaters.
The team at The Eye Health Centre can go over the risks and benefits of these options and explain what to expect from each. We are happy to answer all of your questions and help you decide how best to proceed.
Contact The Eye Health Centre today to request a consultation with our retinal team.