Are Floaters and Flashes Serious?

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Are you seeing small specks, dots, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision? Or maybe you are seeing flashing lights or streaks of lightning? These unusual things in your field of vision are known as floaters and flashes. While usually harmless, floaters and flashes can also be a sign of a serious medical condition and should be checked out by an experienced ophthalmologist.

What Are Floaters?

What are floaters? Floaters are tiny gel-like clumps of cells called vitreous that detach from the rest of the vitreous, an important component of the eye. As you age, the vitreous starts to shrink, which is what creates these small clumps. Floaters drift through the vitreous and pass in front of the center of your retina, which allows you to see them. You are at a higher risk of developing eye floaters if you are over the age of 50, nearsighted, have diabetes, have previously had a surgery to correct cataracts or had eye problems in the past such as swelling in the eye.

Are Floaters Serious?

Floaters are very common, especially as people get older. However, sometimes floaters can be a sign of a more serious eye condition, like retinal detachment or retinal tears. In some rare cases, floaters can be a sign of another medical condition, like diabetes, hypertension or multiple sclerosis. If you’re suddenly experiencing floaters, it’s a good idea to get your eyes checked out by a trained ophthalmologist.

What Are Flashes?

Flashes are bright spots or streaks of light in your field of vision. One of the most common reasons for developing flashes is when the vitreous in your eye begins to shrink and pull on your retina. This is also known as posterior vitreous detachment. People are at higher risk for seeing flashes as they age and if they are prone to migraines.

Are Flashes Serious?

In most cases, seeing an occasional flash in your vision isn’t something that you need to worry about. However, if you begin to notice a lot of flashes in your vision, you should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Seeing flashes can be the sign of a serious vision problem such as a detached or torn retina. These are conditions that require treatment. If you have a detached retina and fail to get it treated, you could risk permanent vision loss in that eye.

If you’ve been experiencing floaters or flashes, you should schedule a consultation with premier Toronto area ophthalmologist Dr. Raymond Stein. Call or email Bochner Eye Institute today.