Floaters and Flashers Graphic

What Causes Eye Floaters and Flashes?

At Grene Vision Group in Wichita, Kansas, we understand how bothersome those tiny specks or sudden flashes in your peripheral vision can be. Eye floaters and flashes are common visual disturbances that many of us will encounter at some stage in our lives. Although they often indicate the natural aging process, there are instances when they hint at more serious concerns. 

Let our experienced eye care professionals at Grene Vision Group educate you about the origins of floaters and flashes, as well as guide you through the comprehensive services and treatments we offer.

What Are Eye Floaters and Flashes?

Eye floaters, also referred to as vitreous floaters, are small specks drifting across your field of vision. These specks can take on various forms, resembling zigzags, dark patches, hazy regions, or other noticeable patterns. Contrary to the sensation that they're hovering just in front of your eye, they actually form within the eye itself. 

These floaters consist of minute collagen fibers that cluster together in the transparent gel, known as the vitreous humor, situated between your eye's lens and the retina. Their emergence is often linked to the breakdown of collagen in the vitreous humor due to factors like nearsightedness or the natural aging process. Typically benign, these clumps generally dissipate over time.

Eye flashes, or photopsias, differ from eye floaters in that instead of spotting a speck, one might see a sudden burst of color or light. Just like eye floaters, these flashes arise in the vitreous humor. As the collagen in our body deteriorates more rapidly with age, the gel within the vitreous humor contracts and separates from the retina, causing these momentary flashes of light.

Causes of Floaters and Flashes

Sometimes, you might see tiny spots or brief flashes in your vision. It's normal and often happens when you wake up, read, or touch your eyes. If you see these spots or flashes a lot, it could be due to a change in the eye called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). 

Think of PVD as the jelly inside your eye moving away from the back of the eye. This change doesn't hurt and usually doesn't make you see worse, but it can lead to other eye problems. While getting older is a common reason for these spots and flashes, there can be other causes too. 

Minor Causes of Floaters and Flashes

As mentioned previously, floaters and flashes are a common occurrence and don’t necessarily mean you have a serious eye condition. Some of the usual causes include:

  • Eye inflammation

  • Eye infections

  • Eye injury

  • Severe cough

  • Migraine or headache

  • Diabetes

Serious Causes of Floaters and Flashes

Sometimes floaters and flashes can be an indication of a more serious underlying eye condition. These include:

  • Histoplasmosis

  • Choroidal neovascular membranes

  • Cytomegalovirus retinitis

  • Detached and torn retina

  • HIV/AIDS

  • Stickler syndrome

  • Vitreomacular traction

If caused by a more serious health condition, floaters and flashes usually present as only one of many other symptoms to watch for.

Who is At Risk for Floaters and Flashes?

Eye floaters and flashes can happen to anyone. While things like nearsightedness and getting older can cause them, other conditions can increase the chance of seeing these floaters and flashes. Here are some things that might raise the risk:

  • A family history of eye problems

  • Eye injuries

  • Cataract surgery

  • Yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) laser surgery after cataract surgery

When Should You Get Treated for Floaters and Flashes?

Floaters and flashes usually aren't harmful and often fade over time. However, if you start noticing them suddenly, it's a good idea to visit an eye doctor. This ensures that there aren't any serious issues causing them.

The main reason people get floaters and flashes is due to PVD, a change in the eye that happens as we get older. Though PVD itself is usually not harmful, it can sometimes lead to bigger issues, like the retina getting damaged. Damage to the retina can be serious and might need surgery to stop vision loss.

When PVD happens, it can cause major changes in vision along with floaters and flashes. But sometimes, there are no clear signs. That's why regular check-ups with your eye doctor at Grene Vision Group are crucial. They can spot early signs of problems.

There are also other eye issues related to floaters and flashes. If you see these signs along with a loss of vision, it might point to a bigger problem. Always visit your doctor if your vision changes suddenly or if you have many symptoms at once. 

On the rare chance that your floaters come from serious issues like a tear in the retina, treatments like laser therapy or surgery might be needed.

Schedule Your Eye Exam at Grene Vision Group

If your flashes or floaters are starting to impact your vision, it’s time to see an eye doctor. Even if you don’t have a serious eye condition, removing floaters with laser therapy can still help improve your vision. Speak the the ocular experts at Grene Vision Group to find out more about treatments for your flashes and floaters.

Comprehensive Eye Exams are the only sure way to diagnose serious eye conditions that may be causing your flashes and floaters. Find a Grene Vision Group office in the Wichita, KS area near you and book an exam today! 

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