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Should I Worry If I See More Flashes and Floaters?

May 16, 2024

It's normal to occasionally experience flashes of light and floaters in your vision. These visual symptoms are quite common, especially as you age.

You're more likely to experience increased flashes and floaters as you age. Most of the time, these visual aberrations are nothing to worry about.

However, they can sometimes indicate a serious eye condition that can significantly impact your vision if not treated promptly. That's why you need to be aware of flashes and floaters. Keep reading to determine if you should worry if you see more flashes and floaters and what to do if this happens.

What are Floaters?

Floaters in your vision usually look like spots or cobweb-like streaks, and particles in the vitreous cause them. The vitreous is the gel-like substance that fills your eyes.

Floaters are very normal, and most people see them sometimes. They often go away on their own.

The older you get, the more likely you are to develop floaters, which usually accumulate slowly over time. When they don't go away on their own, you can have them removed surgically with a procedure called a vitrectomy.

A vitrectomy is a procedure that removes part of the vitreous and, thus, any particles in it. You're more likely to develop floaters if you're nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.

Most of the time, new floaters are not worth worrying about. However, there are certain cases when an increase in flashes and floaters can be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment.


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What are Flashes?

Flashes of light appearing in your vision are also associated with the vitreous. They occur when the vitreous rubs on the retina.

Like floaters, they're normal to experience sometimes, especially if you're older. Seeing flashes of light can also be a symptom of a migraine.

But like floaters, if you suddenly start experiencing flashes for the first time or see an increase in flashes, it can indicate a retinal tear or detachment, so don't ignore them.

When to See Your Eye Doctor

You should see your eye doctor if you notice new floaters that won't go away or if you start seeing new flashes of light. Seeing a few floaters or flashes shouldn't concern you, but if you think it's out of the ordinary, schedule time to have them checked out to be safe.

It's also good for your eye doctor to be aware of your existing flashes and floaters to monitor your eyes and their health. If you start seeing many new floaters or experience more flashes than usual, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

When many floaters appear at once or within a short amount of time, or when you see a lot of flashes close together, it's often a sign of a retinal tear or detachment, which is a serious concern. Retinal tears and detachments also tend to cause a shadow over part of your vision or in your peripheral vision.

If you experience this symptom and new floaters or flashes, you should see your eye doctor immediately.

Retinal Tears and Detachments

A retinal tear occurs when the vitreous tugs on the retina. The retina is a fragile membrane that lines the back of your eye.

It contains cells that translate the light that passes through your eye into impulses sent to the brain. Without it, you wouldn't be able to see.

That's why it's so serious if the retina suffers any damage, as it can cause irreversible vision loss. A retinal tear can be treated to prevent a total retinal detachment.

A retinal detachment occurs when fluid accumulates under the retina through a tear, lifting the retina from the back of the eye. If the retina lifts from the back of the eye, this cuts off the oxygen supply to the retina.

If left without oxygen for too long, the retina becomes permanently damaged. Luckily, even if you have a total retinal detachment, it can still be repaired before you lose your vision.

But it needs to be treated right away. This is why it's imperative to have your eyes examined if you're experiencing an influx of new flashes and floaters and why you must have your eyes examined as soon as possible if you see flashes and floaters that seem out of the ordinary.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Retinal Tears and Retinal Detachments

Your ophthalmologist at Maryland Eye Associates can diagnose you with a retinal tear or detachment. Once diagnosed, they can then provide treatment.

Depending on the severity of your retinal tear or detachment, your surgeon may use several surgical methods to repair it. If you suddenly start seeing a lot of floaters or flashes and a shadow over your vision, this could be a medical emergency that requires a visit to the emergency room, especially if you can't get an appointment with your eye doctor that day or the next.

Retinal detachments must be treated quickly to save vision, so emergency services may be the best option if you have a total retinal detachment. Do you need more information about retinal detachments? Learn more by requesting an appointment at Maryland Eye Associates in Prince Frederick, MD, today!