WHAT ARE THE FLASHES AND FLOATERS IN MY VISION

The Truth About "Swatting Flies"

Though many of us feel we are loosing our minds, “swatting flies” that aren’t even there, we are actually among the majority who have to deal with seeing Floaters in our vision. 

Floaters are tiny specks of what appears to be bugs or gnats moving in your field of vision.  You may notice them more on a bright day, while looking at a plain light colored background, or while reading the paper. Floaters are the tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. What you are actually seeing is the shadow that these floaters cast on the retina. Floaters can have different shapes and come across as little dots, circles, lines clouds or cobwebs.

 When we reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. Floaters often occur when the vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. In some cases the retina can tear if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a vision threatening retinal detachment.

Though less common, floaters can occur in younger age patients as well.  Athletes, more notably soccer and football players that suffer from multiple blows to the head are more likely to have their vitreous tug loose.

 The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. You should call Eye Columbus right away if you suddenly develop a new onset of floaters, regardless of any age.

Seeing Flashes Of Light In Your Vision

When the vitreous gel inside your eye tugs or pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning bolts in your vision.

 The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, it is more common to experience flashes. Contact Eye Columbus immediately if you discover a sudden onset of flashes of light in your eyes.

Signs and Symptoms

You should contact Eye Columbus as soon as possible if:

  • One new, large floater or "showers" of floaters appear suddenly
  • You see sudden flashes of light
  • You notice other symptoms, such as the loss of side vision

 Floaters and flashes of light become more common as we grow older. While not all floaters and flashes are serious, you should always have a medical eye examination by your Eye Columbus Optometrist to make sure there has been no damage to your retina.

Treatment

Once one of our doctors determine that your retina is healthy, i.e. no tears or breaks, there is no further treatment necessary other than close observation. 

Depending on each case, the doctor will re-evaluate the retina at onset of these symptoms, then again within 6 weeks of onset, and if everything appears healthy, they may re-examine the retina 6 months later.  All patients should return asap with any new symptoms such as an increase in floaters, increase of flashes, if they ever notice a "curtain" coming over their vision, or any other abnormal visual disturbance.

 While some floaters may remain in your vision, many of them will fade over time and become less bothersome. Even if you have had some floaters for years, you should have an eye examination immediately if you begin to notice new ones.

by Dr. Craig Miller | Eye Columbus