What Causes Flashes?
A visual flash is a quick streak or burst of light in the visual field, almost like a camera flash. Many people experience flashes when their eyes shift vision quickly or when they close their eyes. A flash is caused when the gel-like substance in the middle of the eye, known as the vitreous, pulls away from the retina. This is often part of the eye’s aging process, and flashes can also be associated with the onset of a migraine headache.
What Causes Floaters?
A floater is a dot, speck, or dark strand in the field of vision. Many people experience floaters when they look at solid colors in bright light, like when viewing objects in the bright daytime sky. Floaters are caused by clumps of collagen fibers or cells in the vitreous.
Unless floaters develop suddenly or interfere with a person’s vision, they aren’t a cause for concern.
Conditions Associated with Flashes and Floaters
In most cases, flashes and floaters are normal visual disturbances. However, sometimes flashes or floaters can be caused by an underlying condition, such as:
- Retinal tear or detachment
- Eye injury or trauma
- Ocular tumor
Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)
A posterior vitreous detachment does not threaten vision and does not require treatment. Many people don’t even notice a PVD, or they may experience an increase in floaters. In some patients, however, the vitreous pulling on the retina can lead to a retinal tear or hemorrhage, which could eventually cause retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. For this reason, people who experience a sudden increase in floaters or flashes should have their eyes examined promptly.
How are Flashes and Floaters Diagnosed?
If you experience frequent flashes or floaters, consider discussing them with your eye doctor at your next exam. Should you experience a sudden increase in these visual disturbances, you should have your eyes evaluated as soon as possible. The underlying cause of frequent flashes and floaters can be diagnosed during a dilated eye exam, which allows your eye doctor to examine your retina.
Treatment for Flashes and Floaters
Flashes and floaters rarely require treatment. However, if flashes and floaters are symptoms of a more serious eye condition, treatment may be necessary. In some cases, a procedure called a vitrectomy, where the vitreous gel of the eye is removed and replaced, may be required.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
If you are troubled by flashes and/or floaters, contact the ophthalmologists at Virginia Eye Consultants to schedule an examination. If you experience a sudden combination of flashes and floaters, please be sure to contact an eye care professional immediately. We are proud to serve patients from Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Suffolk, and surrounding communities.
1 Cleveland Clinic. Flashes and Floaters in Your Eyes: When to See the Doctor. Available: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/flashes-and-floaters-in-your-eyes-when-to-see-the-doctor/ Accessed June 13, 2022.