Flashes and Floaters – Greater Rhode Island

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What are Flashes and Floaters?

Many people experience what are commonly called flashes and floaters. While they are not usually symptoms of a serious problem, you should definitely have them evaluated if they have suddenly appeared or become much worse. Individuals with floaters typically notice them the most when they are facing a plain white or bright backdrop, such as a computer screen or the sky while driving. They can look like tiny specks, short black squiggles, or sometimes eyelashes that float around your field of vision. In reality, they are tiny pieces of vitreous gel that have clumped together. Flashes can look like the “stars” you may have experienced after standing up too fast or may be more pronounced, like flashing lights. These flashes are the result of your retina being tugged on by the vitreous gel inside your eye.

If you notice a sudden onset or worsening of floaters or flashes, it is very important to have your eyes examined at one of the Koch Eye Associates facilities in Rhode Island soon. We are proud to provide comprehensive eye exams at our locations in Wakefield, Woonsocket, North Kingstown, Warwick, Providence, and Johnston, RI.

When to see a doctor

While floaters and flashes are fairly common, even in younger people, they do tend to increase or become more noticeable as we age. Having a few floaters or a very occasional flash is not usually a cause for alarm. However, if you experience any of the following, you should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible:

  • You have a sudden appearance of many small floaters
  • You have a sudden appearance on one new large floater
  • You lose peripheral vision
  • You have “shaded” vision, as though a cloud is passing the sun
  • You have persistent flashes of light

Causes

Flashes and floaters are typically caused by the natural aging process. As we age, the vitreous fluid in our eyes begins to thicken and shrink. The thickening produces the clumps, or floaters, which cast shadows on the retina. The shadows are what we are actually seeing. The shrinkage of the virtea can cause the flashes. As it shrinks, it can tug on or pull away from the retina. The flashes are the nerve cells of the retina responding to the tugging. Some vision surgeries, such as LASIK, can also cause patients to begin to see more floaters, but these are not a serious concern. Eye injuries or head traumas can also cause flashes and floaters. If you notice the sudden appearance or increase in floaters or flashes, whether related to an injury or not, this could be an indication of something serious, such as retinal detachment. It is crucial to be evaluated by your Koch Eye Associate ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Treatment Options

When you visit us for your floaters or flashes evaluation, one of our experienced ophthalmologists will be able to tell you their cause and whether any treatment is necessary. Most of the time, floaters are not a cause for concern, and patients just learn to move their eyes to let them “float” out of the way. However, if your ophthalmologist determines you have a detached or torn retina, you will need immediate medical treatment. Most detached or torn retina cases can be helped or corrected with advanced laser surgery. Your ophthalmologist and team of vision professionals at Koch Eye Associates will make sure you fully understand your diagnosis and treatment options before taking the next steps.

Repair and relief

Floaters and flashes are not usually a symptom of a serious problem, but we understand that they can make patients uneasy. If you are concerned about your long-term floaters and simply want to learn about them, we encourage you to schedule a consultation at Koch Eye Associates to put your mind at ease. However, if you have had a sudden onset of floaters or flashes, please make an appointment for a comprehensive exam as soon as possible. Our Rhode Island offices are fully equipped and staffed with experts that can provide the care you require.

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*Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary from person to person. Images may contain models.