Maple Eye and Laser Center
What Are Eye Flashes/Floaters, and Are They Cause for Concern?

What Are Eye Flashes/Floaters, and Are They Cause for Concern?

floaters and flashes in the eye

Eye flashes and floaters occur when the eye’s gel-like fluid (vitreous) shrinks naturally with age. Eye flashes appear in the field of vision like a camera flash or lightning, while floaters appear like small shapes.

Eye flashes and floaters are usually not a cause for concern and do not require treatment. But when they increase, it can indicate a serious eye condition such as retinal detachment. Here is more information on what eye flashes/floaters are.

Normal Eye Floaters and Eye Flashes

Eye floaters are solid parts of the gel-like vitreous humor. Aging causes the vitreous to shrink, creating small particles that drift through the eye and pass through the central retina. They are a part of the natural aging process, even in healthy eyes. They might be bothersome initially, but you soon get used to them.

The floaters may seem less pronounced sometimes, but they never completely disappear and remain permanently in the eye. It is essential to maintain regular eye exams even if you do not have vision problems.

Floaters and Cause for Concern

Floaters sometimes signify a severe eye problem known as retinal detachment. A pulling away or shrinking of the vitreous can cause the retina to detach, creating floaters. It is known as posterior vitreous detachment and can cause severe vision problems. The vitreous shrinkage can also cause retinal tears.

If you experience increasing floaters or flashes, visit your eye doctor at Maple Eye and Laser Center immediately. Floaters can occur in one eye first before they happen in the other eye. If you are young and experience eye flashes or floaters, it may be a cause for concern.

Causes of Eye Floaters and Eye Flashes

Age is the most common cause of floaters, but other less common reasons exist. Blood in the eye can cause eye floaters, usually due to diabetes. Diabetes-related retinopathy is when blood from the retina gets into the vitreous.

It causes the patient to experience dark streaks or spots in the vision. Eye inflammation can also cause floaters. When the eye becomes inflamed or swollen, a condition known as uveitis, it can cause you to experience floaters or flashes.

Risk Factors for Eye Floaters

Anyone can get flashes or floaters, but some people have a higher risk of developing the condition. They include:

  • Being over 50 years

  • Being nearsighted

  • Family history of retinal tears

  • Having diabetes

  • Past issues like swelling in the eye

  • Having had cataract surgery

  • Having migraines

Diagnosing Eye Flashes and Eye Floaters

An eye doctor will diagnose flashes or floaters during an eye exam. A dilated eye exam will enable the doctor to examine the inner part of the eye and check for floaters. The doctor will examine the retina, looking for signs of tear or detachment.

If the doctor notices floaters, he will recommend more frequent eye exams. While it can be frustrating, it is not necessary to treat floaters. Surgical removal of floaters can pose a risk to the patient’s vision.

Contact an eye doctor immediately if you notice a sudden change or increase in eye floaters and flashes. It is especially vital if you experience a loss of peripheral vision.

For more on eye flashes/floaters and whether they are cause for concern, visit Maple Eye and Laser Center at our White Plains or Manhattan, New York office. Call 914-948-5157 to schedule an appointment today.