In this blog, we'll discuss what floaters and flashes are, potential causes, and why it's important to have them evaluated by an eye doctor.

What are floaters and flashes in your vision?

Floaters are small spots or shapes that appear to float in front of your vision. They may look like black or gray dots, circles, or strings and can be most noticeable when looking at a plain background, such as a clear blue sky or a white wall. Floaters are caused by clumps of cells or bits of debris in the vitreous humor, the clear gel that fills the space between your lens and retina.

Flashes of light, also known as photopsia, are brief bursts of light or lightning streaks that can appear in one or both eyes. They may look like stars, fireworks, or camera flashes and can be triggered by a variety of different factors.

What are the different causes of flashes and floaters?

Floaters are normal in the majority of cases, and can be considered a part of aging. Most adults have a few floaters in their vision, and even children and teenagers may have them without any obvious pathology or disease.

There are many factors that can cause flashes, including:

  • Clumps of cells or bits of debris in the vitreous humor
  • Age-related shrinkage of the vitreous gel
  • Injury to the eye
  • Infection or inflammation in the eye
  • Bleeding into the eye
  • Complications from cataract surgery

Flashes of light can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Retinal detachment
  • Vitreous detachment
  • Migraines
  • Trauma
  • Eye infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Other medical conditions

Who is at risk for flashes and floaters?

Patients who are at risk for experiencing flashes and floaters may include the following:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Over 50 years of age
  • Eye injury or inflammation
  • Certain eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, or posterior vitreous detachment
  • Cataract
  • Having a history of eye surgery
  • Trauma to the eye
  • High myopia
  • Inflammation inside the eye
  • Inflammation or infection of the uvea (middle layer of the eye)
  • Certain medications

What should you do if you see flashes and floaters in your vision?

In general, randomly seeing flashes of light or having floating squiggles or dots in your vision is normal, however it is important to have a comprehensive eye exam in order to rule out anything more serious. If the flashes or floaters in your vision are sudden or very common that may be a serious sign and you should schedule an emergency eye exam with us right away.

If you experience flashes and floaters in your vision, it is important to schedule an appointment with our eye doctor as soon as possible. If you don’t already have a trusted optometrist or live too far from our office in Bellflower, you might begin your search online by entering “eye doctor near me” or “emergency eye exam near me”.

These symptoms can be a sign of something more serious, such as a retinal detachment or vitreous detachment. A retinal detachment is particularly vision-threatening, but if it's caught early, you may be able to preserve your vision.

Additionally, you should avoid rubbing your eyes or pressing on them, avoid straining your eyes, and avoid excessively bending or lifting heavy objects, as these activities can cause symptoms to worsen and even cause retinal detachment. It's also a good idea to reduce or stop any activities that could lead to a head injury as trauma to the head or eye is one of the cause of retinal detachment.

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