What are Flashes and Floaters?
Flashes and floaters are a typical but irritating condition that happens to many women and men as they start to age. Typically, this condition is not indicative of something worse, but we still recommend having your eyes assessed by one of our skilled eye doctors. Patients with floaters generally see them while looking at a light, white background, such as a computer screen. Floaters appear as small flecks or tiny curls that move throughout your eyesight. These floaters are small pieces of vitreous gel that have collected together. Further, flashes look like “lightning bolts,” which you tend to experience when you stand up too fast. Over time, flashes can start to become noticeable and appear like flashing lights. This visual symptom is triggered by your retina being pulled on by the vitreous gel instead of your eye.
If you unexpectedly start to notice flashes or floaters or they have started getting worse, it’s imperative to have your eyes examined by one of our board-certified ophthalmologists. At Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley in San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, CA, our team is excited to offer a range of advanced vision services to the Encino and West Hills communities.
"Thank you Dr. Elkins for removing my moms cataracts. You are so patient and calm and she loved your personality. We couldn’t ask for more. You are a great doctor and our best choice. Thank you again Dr. Elkins. I wish there were more caring doctors around like you. My moms cataract surgery went so smooth."- T.G. / Yelp / Jun 04, 2021
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what are the symptoms?
Although flashes and floaters occur at any age and for many people, they often become worse with age. This condition is not generally a sign of a more severe condition. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, please give us a call at our Encino or West Hills office. Flashes and floaters symptoms include:
- Decline of peripheral vision
- Frequent flashes of light
- Appearance of recent, large floater
- Sudden “shaded” vision, which temporarily darkens field of sight
- Increase in floaters or flecks of spots
what causes them?
As we start to age, flashes and floaters happen because the vitreous fluid between your lens and the retina starts to congeal and shrivel, which creates clumping. When the fluid becomes too clumpy, it can create floaters or dark lines that cast shade onto the retina. If you experience flashes, these happen because the vitreous membrane becomes smaller in size and begins to tug on the retina. The nerve cells within the retina react to the pulling, which creates the flashes. In some cases, refractive surgeries, like LASIK, may cause an increase in floaters; however, this is generally not related to a more serious condition. Additionally, if you experienced an injury or trauma to the eye, you may notice an increase in floaters and flashes. No matter the cause and if you notice an increase in these types of visual effects, our team at Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley in San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, CA can help you create a treatment plan.
- Additional causes of floaters, specifically, could include:
- Inflammation due to infection or autoimmune disorder
- Bleeding in the eye caused by diabetic retinopathy, high blood pressure, blocked blood vessels, or trauma
- Retinal detachment
- Severe nearsightedness
When Should I be Concerned?
In many cases, floaters subside on their own. However, sometimes they indicate a small tear on the retina, which could potentially worsen into a retinal detachment.
Retinal detachments often result in the need for surgery and could lead to permanent loss of vision. For this reason, new floaters should be examined by your ophthalmologist at your earliest convenience. During a dilated eye exam, one of our experienced surgeons will be able to determine whether your floater(s) is a normal change of the vitreous gel or whether it will need treatment. When treatment is needed, laser is an option that can be chosen to heal, seal, and barricade the tear to prevent retinal detachment.
Contact our facility right away if you notice:
- The sudden appearance of new floaters
- Floaters accompanied new flashes of light in the same eye
- Darkness in your peripheral vision
These symptoms could indicate the beginning of a retinal tear, which requires immediate medical attention to prevent further damage.
At your appointment with one of our skilled doctors in Encino or West Hills, we can help you determine the underlying reason for your flashes and floaters. We will conduct a comprehensive eye exam before creating a tailored treatment plan. For patients who experience floaters and flashes, we offer a state-of-the-art YAG laser vitreolysis. With this type of treatment, our skilled ophthalmologists target the surface of your floaters. This specialized laser causes the floaters to fall apart, convert to hyaluronan and collagen particles, and reabsorb into the eye.
If we diagnose you with a torn or detached retina, you will need prompt medical attention. Most of the time, our skilled ophthalmologists can treat a detached retina with a specialized laser. No matter the diagnosis, we strive to ensure you feel knowledgeable about the treatment options available to you.
Repair and relief
Generally, for patients who experience flashes and floaters, this is not a symptom of a more serious condition; however, they may become irritating and cause you to feel worried. If you notice additional flashes or floaters in your eyesight, please schedule an appointment to learn more. Our goal at Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley in San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, CA is to determine the underlying cause and help you live with better vision. Both of our locations in Encino and West Hills can help diagnose and treat flashes and floaters.