What are Floaters and Flashes?

  • Posted on: Sep 16 2014
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 Floaters and FlashesWe have all heard our eye doctor mention “floaters” and “flashes” in the eyes. But what do those terms mean? For some patients, issues with either floaters or flashes can be an indicator of a serious problem!

Let’s take a closer look at these eye care terms:

  1. What are floaters? Floaters are tiny clusters of cells, or protein matter, which are lodged inside of the eyeball ( known as the “vitreous humor.”) This clear gel, which looks somewhat like raw egg whites, acts as a support and filler for the eyeball. The inside of the eyeball acts as a pathway for light coming into the eyes through the lens, and connects to the retina, which is the patch of light-sensitive cells along the back of the eye, which captures images and sends them to the brain through the optic nerve. While floaters are not visible themselves, the shadow that is cast onto the retina is visible. Floaters are generally harmless, and are quite common in patients who are nearsighted.
  2. What are flashes? Flashes are flashes of light, which occur when the vitreous humor thickens and begins to pull on the retina. This causes small tears or holes.  The flashes of light can appear in waves, or as jagged lines in one of both eyes, lasting about 20 minutes. These flashes of light are caused by an ocular migraine- which is a spasm of blood vessels within the brain. Like floaters, flashes of light are not usually considered to be a problem.
  3. When can floaters and flashes become a problem? Though floaters and flashes are not usually considered to be issues, the onset of new flashes of light can indicate serious issues with vision, such as a tear in the retina or, worse, that the retina has moved from its original position. If you are experiencing any new “flashes” of light, it is a good idea to get your eyes checked. The condition may require surgery, or other treatments, to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

Opthamologist in Southern California

If you have any questions or wish to know more about floaters and flashes, and how they can be treated, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Our offices are located in Lynwood, Downey, La Habra, and Whittier.  We look forward to serving you!

Posted in: Eye Health

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