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Floaters And Flashes

The Woodlands Retina Center

Wael Abdelghani, MD, FACS

Retina and Vitreous Specialist located in The Woodlands, TX

Floaters and flashes are usually harmless, but when you suddenly develop a lot of floaters or they occur together with flashes, it’s time to take them seriously. That’s when they’re signs of a torn or detached retina. Dr. Wael Abdelghani at The Woodlands Retina Center specializes in helping prevent vision loss through early detection and rapid treatment of retinal conditions. If you experience floaters and flashes, please call the office in The Woodlands, Texas, or book an appointment online.

Floaters and Flashes Q & A

What are floaters?

Floaters appear as small, shadowy shapes that may resemble a strand of thread, a spot, or a spider web. They float across your field of vision and if you try to focus on them, they disappear because they follow your eye movement.

Floaters are caused by tiny clumps of cells in the vitreous inside your eye. Your gel-like vitreous is clear so light can pass through and focus on your retina, but it also contains a small amount of proteins.

When the solid components form a clump or thin strand, they get in the way of light passing through your eye. This casts a shadow on your retina, which you see as a floater.

What increases your risk of floaters?

While you can develop floaters at any age, they’re more common as you get older because the vitreous starts to liquify and shrink. These changes lead to the strings or clumps that cause floaters.

Other factors that increase your risk of floaters include:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Surgery for cataracts
  • Inflammatory disease inside the eye
  • Posterior vitreous detachment

What are flashes?

When light enters your eye, the retina turns it into an electrical impulse that travels along the optic nerve to your brain. When your retina is physically stimulated, a similar electrical impulse is sent to the brain where it’s interpreted as a flicker of light.

If your retina is torn or detached, or the vitreous detaches, the same flash of light can occur. A blow to your head that’s strong enough to shake the vitreous also triggers flashes of light, an event that’s commonly referred to as “seeing stars.”

Do floaters and flashes affect your vision?

Floaters and flashes don’t harm your vision, but they can be symptoms of serious eye problems. A sudden increase in the number of new floaters and developing flashes are signs of a torn or detached retina, which causes vision loss.

How are floaters treated?

Floaters are usually short-lived and harmless, but if they’re frequent or large enough to affect your vision, Dr. Abdelghani can treat them using laser vitreolysis or by performing a vitrectomy to remove then replace the vitreous.

If you have questions about floaters or flashes, call Dr. Abdelghani or use online booking to schedule an appointment.