What are floaters?
Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. While they seem to be in front of your eye, they are floating inside. Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous that fills your eye. What you see are the shadows these clumps cast on your retina.
As we age, our vitreous starts to thicken or shrink. Sometimes clumps or strands form in the vitreous. If the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it is called posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters usually happen with posterior vitreous detachment. They are not serious, and they tend to fade or go away over time. Severe floaters can be removed by surgery, but this is seldom necessary.
You are more likely to get floaters if you:
- are nearsighted (you need glasses to see far away)
- have had surgery for cataracts
- have had inflammation (swelling) inside the eye
What are flashes?
Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision. Some people compare them to seeing “stars” after being hit on the head. You might see flashes on and off for weeks, or even months. Flashes happen when the vitreous rubs or pulls on your retina.
As people age, it is common to see flashes occasionally.
Flashes and migraines
Sometimes people have light flashes that look like jagged lines or heat waves. These can appear in one or both eyes and may last up to 20 minutes. This type of flash may be caused by a migraine. A migraine is a spasm of blood vessels in the brain.
When you get a headache after these flashes, it is called a “migraine headache.” But sometimes you only see the light flash without having a headache. This is called an “ophthalmic migraine” or “migraine without headache.”
At Joseph Eye & Laser Center, we guide you through your options and help you determine the treatment that is customized for your specific needs. Dr. Christopher Joseph, DO, FACS is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of Retinal Detachments, as well as Cataract, and Glaucoma surgery. He completed an extra year of training by completing a fellowship in Pittsburgh, PA, which specialized in Laser Cataract Surgery, and Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS). Dr. Joseph is also one of the few Ophthalmologist in the United States recognized for his excellence by the America College of Surgeons (ACS). In 2018, the ACS nominated Dr. Joseph as a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS). At Joseph Eye & Laser, we have the most high-tech wide view retinal camera, which allows us to detect retinal tears and detachments at the earliest possible time.
When floaters and flashes are serious
Most floaters and flashesare not a problem. However, there are times when they can be signs of a serious condition. Here is when you should call an ophthalmologist right away:
- you notice a lot of new floaters
- you have a lot of flashes
- a shadow appears in your peripheral (side) vision
- a gray curtain covers part of your vision
These floaters and flashes could be symptoms of a torn or detached retina. This is when the retina pulls away from the back of your eye. This is a serious condition that needs to be treated immediately.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of our eye. Light rays are focused onto the retina through our cornea, pupil and lens. The retina converts the light rays into impulses that travel through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A healthy, intact retina is key to clear vision.
Usually, the vitreous moves away from the retina without causing problems. But sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places. Fluid may pass through a retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye — much as wallpaper can peel off a wall. When the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye like this, it is called a retinal detachment.
The retina does not work when it is detached and vision becomes blurry. A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless it is treated with detached retina surgery.
Symptoms of a retinal tear and a retinal detachment can include the following:
- A sudden increase in size and number of floaters, indicating a retinal tear may be occurring;
- A sudden appearance of flashes, which could be the first stage of a retinal tear or detachment;
- Having a shadow appear in the periphery (side) of your field of vision;
- Seeing a gray curtain moving across your field of vision;
- A sudden decrease in your vision.
Floaters and flashes in themselves are quite common and do not always mean you have a retinal tear or detachment. However, if they are suddenly more severe and you notice you are losing vision, you should call your ophthalmologist right away.
A retinal tear or a detached retina is repaired with a surgical procedure. Based on your specific condition, your ophthalmologist will discuss the type of procedure recommended and will tell you about the various risks and benefits of your treatment options.
After successful surgery for retinal detachment, vision may take many months to improve and, in some cases, may never return fully. Unfortunately, some patients do not recover any vision. The more severe the detachment, the less vision may return. For this reason, it is very important to see your ophthalmologist regularly or at the first sign of any trouble with your vision.
Only your eye surgeon, can assess whether you have Retinal Detachments, Cataracts or Glaucoma and determine the necessary treatments or surgeries, for these diseases. These procedures are extremely safe, and have a high success rate, however, the use of cutting-edge technology can be difficult to master, so picking the right surgeon is critical. Dr. Joseph is Fellowship trained in minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) and laser glaucoma surgery (SLT). As well as, LASER cataract surgery, dropless cataract surgery, and high-tech lens implants (IOLs). If you would like to further learn about any of our Retinal Detachment evaluations, Cataract or MIGS procedures, contact the trusted experts at Joseph Eye & Laser Center today. (330) 619-3155