Understanding Floaters and Flashes

With aging can come a decrease in visual clarity. And also with aging can come floaters and flashes. Floaters appear as specks that drift in your eyes, while flashes appear as strands of light that appear and disappear quickly.

At Omphroy Eye Care, located in Aiea, Hawaii, we’re here to help you with all of your eye care needs. In this blog, Luis Omphroy, MD, explains what causes floaters and flashes as well as treatment options.

Why floaters occur

It’s estimated that about 25% of people have floaters by age 60, and about 66% of people have floaters by age 80.

The reason floaters occur is due to a gel-like substance called vitreous humor. As you get older, this substance changes and becomes more watery, and microscopic fibers can pool together and cast tiny shadows on your retina. So when you see floaters, you’re actually seeing shadows. 

Some common signs of floaters include the following:

You have a greater risk of developing floaters if you’re nearsighted, have undergone cataract surgery, or have swelling in your eye. 

Why flashes occur

Flashes often appear as thread-like flashes in the corners of the eyes. They may occur in one or both eyes, and they can have different colors and shapes. What you see may be similar to what you’d see if you hit your head and “saw stars.”

Flashes are also linked to the vitreous gel. The main reason for flashes is when the gel rubs, tugs, or bumps the retina.

When to seek help right away

Since your eyes are one of the most important organs in your body, it’s natural to be concerned if you see floaters or flashes. However, most cases of floaters and flashes aren’t serious and are just a common sign of getting older.

In rare cases, however, floaters and flashes can be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a break in your retina. To know if you should seek help, here are some signs to look out for:

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, or if you’re unsure if it’s an emergency, call Dr. Omphroy right away.

Treatment

Floaters and flashes may be annoying, but most of the time, they don’t need treatment. Many patients notice they come and go. However, if you have floaters or flashes that affect your vision, Dr. Omphroy may suggest you undergo treatment.

Treatment is usually done in one of two ways: surgery or laser treatment.

Surgery

With surgery, Dr. Omphroy makes a tiny incision to remove the vitreous gel and replaces it with a new solution to restore the shape of your eye.

Laser treatment

With laser treatment, Dr. Omphroy targets the floaters with a laser to break them apart so they're less noticeable.

To learn more about floaters and flashes or to get treatment, book an appointment over the phone with Omphroy Eye Care today.

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