Flashers and Floaters: What Do They Mean?

Most people experience harmless flashers and floaters from time to time, although an increase in these visual disturbances can be a sign of serious eye problems. The doctors at Broberg Eye Care provide screening and treatment for patients who experience a sudden change in flashers and floaters. Contact us today to learn more.

Flashers are bright spots or lines in your field of vision, typically lasting just a few moments. These often result from stimulation to your retina, which interprets light and sends nerve impulses to the brain. The appearance of flashers and floaters can result from:

  • Ocular trauma, such a blow to the eye
  • Vitreous gel pulling on the retina
  • A side effect of blood vessel spasms in the brain, which may be caused by a migraine headache

Floaters are thin lines or small spots that move through your vision. Many people see floaters occasionally, but they are usually not a cause for concern. They typically result from changes in your eye’s vitreous, the collagen and water gel that circulates within your eye. In younger patients, the vitreous has a firm, jelly-like consistency. However, with age, the vitreous breaks down and takes on a liquid consistency. During this process, thicker parts of the vitreous may glide through the thinner center, casting shadows on the retina and appearing as darker lines or spots. Floaters can also occur when the vitreous separates from the retina, which usually does not harm the eye, but may cause retinal tear or detachment, a serious condition that could result in blindness.

In most cases, flashers and floaters are not a serious issue. However, since they could be a symptom of retinal tear or detachment, it is important to pay attention to them and seek treatment if you notice sudden changes. Flashers and floaters may be cause for concern if:

  • They suddenly increase in number, consistency, or size, especially if you see both floaters and flashers
  • Your peripheral vision begins to darken
  • You spontaneously experience obstructed, blurry, or hazy vision
  • You have recently experienced a severe eye injury, as this could be an indication of structural damage
  • You have diabetes, extreme myopia (nearsightedness), or ocular inflammation, as these increase your risk for retinal tear and detachment
  • You have previously had laser eye procedures or cataract surgery, as these also raise your risk for retinal issues
Rarely, flashes and floaters are due to a retinal tear or detachment. Our team of doctors can detect the presence of these on dilated exam and refer you to a respected local retina specialist.

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