Flashes and Floaters in Your Eyes: When to See Your Doctor

If it’s time for a routine eye exam or you have concerns about eye floaters or flashes, schedule a visit at KLM Eye MDs. Call

Many people with healthy eyes occasionally see a few floaters in their visual field, especially when looking at a bright or plain background. When accompanied by flashes of light, however, floaters warrant a medical evaluation by an ophthalmologist. 

These symptoms are often due to relatively minor problems in the beginning and early treatment can help protect your vision. Delay seeing one of our eye doctors for too long, however, and treatment inevitably becomes more complex and the risk to your eyesight increases.

Our experts at KLM Eye MDs offer a full range of eye care services, including comprehensive eye exams and effective treatment for conditions that may be causing worrisome floaters and flashes in your visual field.

Understanding eye floaters

Often described as spider webs, threads, or tiny dark specks drifting across your visual field, eye floaters are usually caused by age-related changes in the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes. The vitreous naturally becomes more liquid as you age. This change from a gel to a more liquid substance allows microscopic fibers/debris within the vitreous to clump together and cast shadows called floaters on your retina as they drift across your inner eye.

Your retina is the thin layer of light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your inner eye. It receives light focused by your lens and converts it into neural signals, which it sends to your brain along the optic nerve. Your brain then transforms these signals into visual images you can recognize. Vision isn’t possible without the retina.

The significance of flashes in your eyes

If you’re seeing brief flashes of light or lightning-like streaks when opening your eyes, it could indicate that the vitreous gel inside your eye is rubbing or pulling on the retina. This action can lead to a retinal tear. Untreated retinal tears can eventually cause a retinal detachment, when the retina pulls away from the back of your eye, and lead to permanent vision loss.

When eye floaters and flashes matter

A few floaters drifting across your eyes are usually nothing to worry about. But it’s well worth a trip to the ophthalmologist if the floaters are new for you, especially if it’s been some time since your last comprehensive eye exam.

A prompt evaluation by your eye doctor is necessary if there’s a sudden increase in the number of floaters you see or if you’re seeing flashes and floaters, which may or may not be accompanied by a partial loss of peripheral (side) vision. These symptoms may signal a retinal tear or pending detachment.

Conditions that often cause an increase of floaters or floaters with flashes include:

Any of these conditions can lead to visual loss but typically respond quite well to treatment, especially when treatment begins early in the course.

If it’s time for a routine eye exam or you have concerns about eye floaters or flashes, schedule a visit at KLM Eye MDs. Call our office in Brooklyn, New York City, or book your appointment online.  

 

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