When Should I Worry About Eye Floaters and Flashes?
When people are enjoying sights like a beautiful sunset or a bright sky, they expect their vision to be clear. It can be concerning to suddenly notice the field of vision disrupted by small shadows or streaks of light. Eye floaters and flashes are not unusual, especially as a person ages, but it is natural to wonder, “when should I worry about eye floaters and flashes?”
Here, eye doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates, which serves Monterey, CA, Salinas, and King City, explain what floaters and flashes are, what causes them, and when they may indicate an eye health problem. Our doctors work with patients to determine if treatment is necessary or if floaters and flashes are a natural side effect of aging.
What Are Floaters and Flashes?
Floaters are small specks, dots, lines, or cobwebs in the field of vision. Floaters look like debris floating on the eye’s surface, but they are actually shadows cast on the retina by clumps of gel or collagen inside the vitreous, the fluid that fills the eye.
Flashes are streaks of light or sudden flashing that appear in the field of vision. People who experience flashes frequently describe it as “seeing stars” in their eyes. Flashes can occur when the vitreous rubs or pulls on the retina.
Individuals may experience floaters, flashes, or both. It is not unusual for flashes or floaters to affect only one eye. Even when both eyes experience floaters and flashes, they do not usually affect the eyes at the same time.
What Causes Eye Floaters and Flashes?
Eye floaters and flashes are most frequently a result of aging. As a person gets older, the vitreous shrinks and thickens. When the vitreous gel thickens, clumps and strands may form. And as the vitreous shrinks, it can pull away from the back of the eye. In these situations, eye floaters and flashes are a natural side effect of aging.
While floaters and flashes are usually not an indicator of anything serious, there are eye diseases that cause floaters and flashes to develop. Common causes of eye floaters and flashes include:
- Retinal tears
- Retinal detachment
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Inflammation within the eye
- Eye tumors
Should I Be Concerned About My Eye Health?
Eye floaters and flashes do not usually indicate a threat to eye health. Most often, they are a side effect of the natural aging process. However, since floaters and flashes can be a side effect of eye diseases or complications, individuals should know when they are cause for concern. Eye floaters and flashes should be reported to an eye doctor in the following situations:
- Floaters or flashes appear suddenly
- Floaters or flashes occur more frequently or worsen in severity
- Floaters and flashes are accompanied by other changes in vision, such as blurry vision, tunnel vision, or areas of darkness in the field of vision
- Floaters and flashes are accompanied by eye pain
Contact Monterey County Eye Associates
If you are concerned by the sudden appearance of eye floaters or flashes, eye doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates can perform a comprehensive eye exam to evaluate eye health. Contact our practice online to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience.