Floaters & Flashes

Eye Floaters and Flashes Care in Chattanooga, Knoxville, and the Tri-Cities Region

Eye floaters and flashes are two very common vision phenomena that most people experience at least once in their lives. Floaters appear as ever-changing shapes and forms slowly drifting through your vision field, while flashes look like light bursts or streaks. While often harmless and annoying, eye floaters and flashes can indicate a significant or underlying condition, like retinal detachment. If you’re concerned about eye floaters and/or flashes, Southeastern Retina Associates can quickly identify the issue and begin effective treatment if needed.

DISCLAIMER:  Please note that the following information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

What are Eye Floaters and Flashes?

Floaters are commonplace, affecting 75% of those over 65. The main cause of eye floaters and flashes is aging. As we get older, many people develop a condition called posterior vitreous detachment, in which the vitreous humor changes, becoming more liquid and separating from the retina. PVD can also lead to the vitreous developing clumps or strands, leading to the perception of floaters in your field of vision. What you’re seeing are tiny shadows being cast against the retina. PVD can also make it appear as though beams of light are flashing in your field of vision.

Aside from aging, eye floaters can also be caused by eye injuries, tumors, intraocular inflammation, blood in the eye, or after cataract surgery. In some cases, they may be related to an underlying condition, such as diabetes or retinitis pigmentosa. This is especially true for younger individuals. Eye floaters and flashes may also develop as the result of two serious conditions – retinal tears and retinal detachments. The primary sign of a retinal tear or detachment is the sudden appearance of many new floaters and/or flashing lights.

Floaters and Flashes Risk Factors

Nearly everyone experiences floaters and flashes at some point, but your chances of experiencing them rise dramatically if you are over the age of 50, have a family history of certain eye problems (like retinal detachment), have had eye surgery, have experienced a traumatic eye injury, or are very nearsighted.

While usually harmless, floaters may signal a retinal detachment or another underlying issue. They may also be mistaken for other conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, making regular monitoring vital. The sooner eye floaters and flashes are evaluated, the quicker treatment can be given for any underlying conditions. Should you observe any of the following, get fast medical attention:

  • A sudden increase in the amount of floaters and/or flashes
  • A sudden increase in intensity or the bursting of floaters and/or flashes
  • Visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or straight lines looking wavy
  • Dark areas or curtains in your visual field
  • Suddenly seeing gray or dark floaters or repetitive light flashes
  • Seeing flashes following injuries, like being hit in the eye

Diagnosing Floaters and Flashes

While they may pose little threat, incidents of floaters and flashes require regular monitoring and consistent eye exams. These visits serve as an opportunity for your ophthalmologist to thoroughly inspect and diagnose you earlier, and, if necessary, begin treatment for any underlying or responsible condition.

Treatment for Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and flashes stemming from PVD often do not require treatment, except for regular monitoring. However, those forming from other causes may call for treating the underlying issue(s), particularly retinal tears and detachment. Some common treatments for retinal tears and detachment include:

Floaters and Flashes FAQs

  • In most cases, floaters and flashes occur in one eye at a time, and this is usually a sign of PVD. In different people, eyes may not age at the same time or in the same way. The vitreous can also shrink in one eye at a faster pace than in the other.

  • While having floaters and flashes are generally harmless, these visual disturbances can be disruptive. One problem is that both can be easily confused with other vision changes, such as viewing large spots in your field of vision. These symptoms may indicate other medical conditions, potentially serious. These may include hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and macular degeneration. Should you experience any visual changes, you need to tell your ophthalmologist, especially if you have a medical history of diabetes or hypertension.

  • No, eye floaters are primarily associated with age-related changes in the vitreous humor and certain eye health conditions rather than lifestyle factors. However, maintaining overall eye health through regular eye check-ups, a balanced diet, and protecting the eyes from injury may contribute to preventing certain eye conditions that could lead to floaters.