Are Eye Floaters and Flashes Normal?

Older couple with eye floaters running

Most people will experience floaters and flashes at some point in their life. This more likely to occur as they get older.

Floaters are small lines or spots that seem to appear at the front of the eye, but in fact, they’re floating inside it. With flashes, they look more like lightning flashes.

About 85 percent of the time, flashes and floaters are harmless. But they could also be a sign of retinal disease. Keep reading to find out if having flashes and floaters is normal!

What are Flashes and Floaters?

Floaters are seen as squiggles, rings, sheets, or other patterns. They may appear at the center or peripheral vision, or both.

Usually, floaters move with the eye movement. They are easier to spot after performing activities with fast and regular up-and-down or side-to-side motions. This includes reading or on a uniform background, for instance, against a white wall.

Flashes occur in a split second as bright white disruptions in the vision. They can look like small streaks or arcs, and you may see them at the corner of the eye.

While they’re not easily noticeable during the day, they’re more visible in the dark.

Causes of Flashes and Floaters

As you age, the gel-like consistency of the vitreous that fills the back of your eye and keeps it round becomes more liquid. This causes strands to come together and go through the light’s path in front of your retina. These are then seen as floating spots.

Flashes come about when the retina and vitreous interact. With age, the vitreous that was once fully attached to the retina may begin to pull away from it. This results in flashes.

Flashes or floaters can be a sign of the vitreous separating from the back of the eye. They are common in people over the age of 50.

Who Is At Risk?

Cataract surgery or trauma such as a punch in the eye can lead to a tear or posterior vitreous detachment.

Those with uncontrolled diabetes face an increased risk because they may have a bleeding retina. This can present itself as floaters.

People who suffer from nearsightedness are also at a higher risk for flashes and floaters. That’s because the eyes of those who are nearsighted are longer than normal.

The vitreous then has to fill the larger space. This makes it more likely to develop strands sooner compared to those that aren’t nearsighted.

When Should You Be Concerned About Flashes and Floaters?

If your floater changes are gradual or slight, you don’t need to be concerned. But if there’s a drastic increase in the floaters, a decline in vision, or the sudden appearance of floaters, these can be signs of a retinal detachment.

In case you have these warning signs, you should see an ophthalmologist within 24 hours. The doctor will perform a dilated eye exam.

This exam involves using eye drops to widen the pupil. Widening the pupil allows in more light and enables your eye doctor to see if there’s a tear or detachment.

A retinal tear or detachment does not cause any pain because the eye doesn’t have pain receptors. Only the exam can help discover retinal damage.

Eye dilation causes sensitivity to light and blurry vision that can last for five hours. You should bring your sunglasses and have someone take you home after having your eyes dilated.

See Better

If floaters and flashes are purely age-related, no treatment is necessary. With time, they will reduce.

But if there’s an infection inside your eye, or retinal bleeding, tear or detachment, Dr. Joshi may use medical therapy. This may include eye drops, oral medication, and laser surgery.

If you have symptoms of persistent floaters or flashes, get in touch with Dr. Joshi right away. Schedule an appointment at Joshi Retina Institute in Boynton Beach, FL today!

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