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Are Floaters and Flashes Dangerous?

You’ve likely experienced occasional visual “floaters” or flashes and may have wondered what they were and if they’re a cause for concern. They look like tiny lines, shapes, shadows, or specks that appear to be drifting in the visual field. More often than not, seeing floaters is a normal occurrence and does not indicate a problem with ocular or visual health. However, when floaters become more frequent and are accompanied by flashes of light, that can indicate a more serious problem.

Eye flashes resemble star-like specks or strands of light that either flash or flicker in one’s field of vision. They can either be a single burst in one visual zone, or can be several flashes throughout a wider area. Flashes can sometimes be missed as they most often appear in the side or peripheral vision.

Floaters & Flashes Eye Care in Washington, D.C., District of Columbia

If you suddenly, or with increasing frequency, experience flashes or floaters, call Washington Eye Doctors and schedule an eye exam with Dr. Michael Rosenblatt right away to rule out any serious eye conditions.

What Causes Floaters?

The vitreous in the eye is a clear gel that fills most of the eyeball and resembles raw egg-white. Within the vitreous are small lumps of protein that drift around and move with the motion of your eyes. When these tiny lumps of protein cast shadows on the retina — the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye — the shadows appear as floaters.

As we age, the vitreous shrinks, creating more strands of protein. This is why the appearance of floaters may increase with time. Floaters tend to be more prevalent in nearsighted people and diabetics, and occur more frequently following cataract surgery or an eye injury.

If seeing floaters becomes bothersome, try moving your eyes up and down or side to side to gently relocate the floaters away from your visual field.

What Causes Flashes?

Flashes result from the retinal nerve cells being moved or tugged on. As the vitreous shrinks over time, it can tug at the retina, causing you to “see stars” or bursts of light. The process of the vitreous separating from the retina is called “posterior vitreous detachment” (PVD) and usually isn’t dangerous.

In about 16% of cases, PVD causes tiny tears in the retina that can lead to retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that causes irreversible blindness if left untreated.

Other possible causes of flashes are eye trauma or migraine headaches.

Call Your Optometrist Immediately

If you experience any of the following symptoms, promptly make an appointment with an eye doctor near you for emergency eye care.

Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • A sudden onset of floaters (which can be any shape or size)
  • An increase of floaters accompanied by flashes and/or a darkening of one side of the visual field
  • Shadows in the peripheral vision
  • Any time flashes are seen

In many cases, seeing floaters is no cause for concern; however they could indicate retinal detachment—which, if left untreated, could cause a permanent loss of sight or even blindness.

If the receptionists pick up the phone and hear the main concern is floaters or flashes, they will try to squeeze in the appointment within 24 hours. Expect the pupils to be dilated during your eye exam, so the eye doctor can get a really good look at the peripheral retina to diagnose or rule out a retinal tear or other serious condition, as opposed to a non-vision-threatening condition such as uncomplicated posterior vitreous detachment (quite common) or ocular migraine.

Please contact Washington Eye Doctors in Washington, D.C. at 202-335-5032 with any further questions, or to schedule an eye doctor’s appointment.

Can Your Eye Doctor See Floaters?

Eye floaters look like little specks or shapes that glide Eye Care Clinic across your visual field. They can resemble dark specks, outlined strings, or fragments of cobwebs – all of which are actually little pieces of debris or clumps of cells floating in your vitreous gel. When they cast shadows on your retina, you see them. Can your eye doctor also see them?

Yes, your eye doctor can see eye floaters during an eye exam. While most of the time floaters are harmless, sometimes they can indicate a serious, sight-threatening eye problem – such as retinal detachment. Your eye doctor will perform a dilated eye exam to inspect your eye health closely, looking out for signs of a problem.

If you only experience mild floaters without any retinal problem, there’s usually no need to treat eye floaters. However, if they’re severe and interfere with vision (and don’t go away on their own after several months), you may need laser treatment. But this is rare.

If eye floaters appear suddenly and in a large quantity, call your eye doctor immediately for an emergency eye exam. They could signal the start of retinal detachment, which can cause blindness when left untreated.

In the vast majority of cases, eye floaters are nothing more than bothersome, and people can usually ignore them more easily as time passes.

At Washington Eye Doctors, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 202-335-5032 or book an appointment online to see one of our Washington, D.C. eye doctors.

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What Causes Eye Flashes and Floaters?

Are eye flashes or floaters a sign to get emergency eye care?

Many people have floaters, which appear like squiggly lines or specks gliding past their visual field. Eye flashes are also common, which look like flickering sparks of light. Usually these drifting images become so familiar that you stop noticing them. Although, you may still think about them – and check to see if they’re still around. But whenever you try to focus directly on your floaters, they seem to zoom away in response. It’s only after your eyeball stops moving that you’ll see them drifting slowly and aimlessly again. Sound familiar?

You may also wonder, are floaters ever a cause for concern? Our eye doctor at Washington Eye Doctors explains the possible causes of eye flashes and floaters, and explains when they’re a reason to visit our eye care centre in Washington, D.C., , and , District of Columbia.

What are eye flashes and floaters?

The back of your eyeball is filled with vitreous humor, a transparent, stable gel similar to egg white. The vitreous gel provides a pathway for light to enter your eye and travel through the lens to the retina. Once light reaches the retinal cells, images are captured and transmitted to your brain via the optic nerve.

As you age, the vitreous humor starts to slowly shrink, and the texture can become stringier. Strands of the vitreous gel, which are actually tiny cell clusters or a bit of protein, develop. These are floaters. However, when you see them – you are really seeing the shadows these cell clusters cast onto your retina.

Eye flashes have a different cause. They occur when your vitreous gel tugs or bumps against your retina.

Do all people get floaters?

Not everyone sees floaters, but most do – especially the older you get. At our eye care offices in Washington, D.C., , and , District of Columbia, we regularly diagnose patients with these visual specks.

Floaters are also more common in people who suffered an eye injury in the past, underwent cataract removal surgery, or have nearsightedness or diabetes.

Are eye flashes and floaters a sign of a medical problem?

Typically, floaters and flashes are harmless and don’t require treatment. But sometimes they’re a warning sign of a sight-threatening eye condition, especially when a group of new floaters appears suddenly.

As the vitreous shrinks, it can pull on the retina and detach from it. When this happens, it’s called a posterior vitreous detachment, which leads to a retinal tear, which requires emergency eye care. If you have a retinal tear, inner eye fluid can leak through it and separate the rest of the retina from the tissues around it.

If you suddenly see a bunch of new floaters appear, call our eye doctor immediately to book an urgent eye exam at one of our offices in Washington, D.C., , and , District of Columbia.

At Washington Eye Doctors, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 202-335-5032 or book an appointment online to see one of our Washington, D.C. eye doctors.

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