Are You Seeing Flashes and Floaters?

by Aug 7, 2019

Flashes of light and dark specks in your vision can be surprising symptoms.  Many people who experience these strange visual occurrences are frightened and confused by their appearance.  While distracting and alarming, these symptoms most commonly accompany normal changes occurring within the eye.  However, in rare instances, they can be indicative of serious ocular conditions such as a retinal tear, or even a retinal detachment.  Continue reading to learn more about these symptoms.


Vitreous Floaters

Filling the space within the eye is a gel-like material known as the vitreous.  This vitreous plays a vital role in protecting and nourishing the eye. When we are young, the vitreous has a thick texture, similar to gelatin.  As the years pass, this gel slowly begins to liquefy, and the vitreous becomes more watery in consistency, with scattered clumps of gelatin-like material remaining.  These residual clumps of thick vitreous cast shadows in the back of the eye, and we perceive a floater in our vision. For some people, floaters resemble small black flecks or appear to float around like bugs.  For others, they may have a more string-like appearance, similar to cobwebs. Floaters tend to be more noticeable in specific lighting conditions, such as cloudy days or while looking at a brightly-lit computer screen.  While they may be an annoying symptom, they are very common and typically require no treatment. Many people become used to their floaters over time, and they eventually become less noticeable.  


What do Flashes of Light Mean?

Similar to floaters, flashes of light may be another visual phenomenon that represents a physiological process occurring inside of the eye.  For those who notice flashes of light in their vision, they typically occur in the periphery, and are mostly noticed in low light conditions or late at night.  Most commonly flashes of light noticed in the periphery are signs of a process known as a posterior vitreous detachment, or a PVD. A PVD occurs when the vitreous gel inside of the eye slowly separates from the tissue lining the back of the eye.  The gentle tug of the gel separating from the retina can result in the stimulation of photoreceptors, meaning the eye perceives flashes of light, even though no such stimulus is present. The likelihood of a vitreous detachment increases with age, and once the vitreous sis completely detached, the flashes of light should stop and will not return.  


Can Flashes and Floaters Be Dangerous?

Many people will notice flashes or floaters throughout their life, and most of the time these symptoms are harmless.  However, in some unfortunate cases, flashes and floaters can be a sign of a dangerous retinal hole, tear, or detachment.  In these cases, there will usually be a large increase in the number of floaters, and they may be accompanied by vision changes, such as a curtain going through the vision.  If this is the case, your optometrist should be informed immediately. They have the ability to thoroughly evaluation your retinal health, and can determine if your symptoms are the result of normal vitreous changes, or if your vision is at risk.  


Our eye doctors and staff at Nittany Eye Care excel in the diagnosis and management of flashes and floaters, which can be a vision threatening issue.  Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality eye care services in the State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas. 


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1 Comment

  1. Toby Ryan

    I didn’t know that having an excessive amount of floaters in your eyes could be an indication that some form of retinal damage occurred. My uncle has been unable to drive to work because he constantly sees dark spots in his peripheral vision which prevents him from focusing. Maybe he should seek professional treatment to remove the floaters from his eyes.


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