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Family Focus Eyecare Explains Flashes and Floaters

During your comprehensive eye exam, you should always mention any changes in vision or eye problems, whether you've experienced flashes of light, floaters or something else. Floaters are sometimes only visible during eye exams, especially if they are close to your retina. While most floaters are harmless, the sudden onset of flashes and/ or floaters can be an urgent warning sign from your eyes.

If you are unsure as to what floaters and flashes are, what causes them, and when to book an appointment with your optometrist, continue scrolling to learn more!

What are Floaters?

Floaters appear as small irregularities that drift slowly across your field of vision. Floaters often appear as little, dark spots, threads or strings, or fragments of cobwebs.

Floaters are small bits of debris floating in your vitreous (the jelly-like filling of your eyeball that helps keep its shape). As these floaters move around they cast shadows on your retina, which is what you see.

What causes Floaters?

Generally, floaters are caused by age-related changes in your vitreous. As you age and your eyes get older, the vitreous jelly deteriorates and becomes more liquid, where it starts to sag and pull away from the inside of your eyeball. Some of the former gel then clumps.

Eye floaters can also occur when the vitreous detaches from the surface of your retina. During this process, the stimulation of the retina often causes flashes of light in the eye. As the vitreous pulls away from the head of your optic nerve, it can even cause a ring-shaped floater to appear temporarily.

Occasionally this detachment will pull a bit of your retina with it, which leaks blood into your vitreous and appears as a scatter of small dots. When this happens, you should seek immediate attention from your optometrist.

Floaters can be caused by bleeding and inflammation in the eye, retinal tears, blood vessel problems or other injuries. Floaters can also be small bits of protein and other material trapped in your eye as the eye was forming prior to birth.

When Should You Contact your Optometrist?

Flashes and floaters in the eye can be an urgent matter for your optometrist, especially when they appear suddenly. Flashes and floaters occasionally signal retinal detachments, which could lead to blindness.

Minor emergencies such as these are often covered with a valid Saskatchewan health card; however, to assess the health of your retina, our optometrists will often recommend dilating the eye(s) as well as having an Optomap (retinal imaging) done, in which case a small fee may apply for the imaging.

Can Floaters be Treated?

Most floaters do not need to be treated. Many people are able to ignore them over time. When floaters become so large or numerous that they impair your vision, surgery or laser therapy might be recommended by your optometrist.

If you're experiencing any symptoms mentioned above, whether for the first time or if you have noticed changes such as an increase in floaters, contact our office and our team will be happy to assist you in booking an appointment.

Original Article from CooperVision.

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