Floaters and flashes are relatively common, though sometimes disturbing, apparitions that momentarily distort vision. To see what we call a floater indicates that something like a speck, thread, or cobweb has appeared in your visual field. To see a flash means that a burst of brightness occurs. This may coincide with blinking, or a flash may occur randomly for no apparent reason. Generally, eye doctors do not become overly concerned about the occasional flash or floater across the eye. However, there are details that should be known so professional evaluation may be obtained at the first indication of a potential problem.
Let’s Look More Closely at Floaters
The reason why threads or webs may flutter across the field of vision is because the egg-like gel, called the vitreous humor, has accumulated a small cluster of cells or protein deposits. The vitreous connects to the retina at the back of the eyeball. To see a floater is actually to see the shadow that is cast on the retina as cells group together on the vitreous. This is somewhat of a normal event because this soft part of the eye naturally shrinks a bit with age, becoming somewhat stringy in consistency. The more shrinkage that occurs, the more likely we are to see the occasional floater fly on by.
When to Call Your Eye Doctor
The danger with floaters is not that they occur, but why they may occur. If floaters begin to occur frequently, seemingly for no reason, an ophthalmic examination should be scheduled right away. This is especially relevant for younger patients whose vitreous humor should be in relatively healthy condition (no substantial shrinkage). A sudden development of floaters could indicate that the posterior vitreous is tugging a bit too much on the retina. We refer to this as posterior vitreous detachment. If this condition is not treated promptly, retinal detachment may occur.
Contact your eye doctor if you experience:
- Sudden onset of floaters or flashes
- Gradually darkened vision starting from one side toward the center
- Central vision that declines quickly
Surgical care may be performed to correct retinal tears or detachment when obtained right away. For prompt eye care, call our Mililani office at 808-625-5577.