Flashes and Floaters Treatment
Flashes and floaters are symptoms of the eye that commonly occur as a result of age-related changes to the vitreous gel. When we are born, the vitreous is firmly attached to the retina and is a thick, firm substance without much movement. But as we age, the vitreous becomes thinner and more watery, and tissue debris that was once secure in the firm gel can now move around inside the eye, casting shadows on the retina.
Flashes occur as a result of traction on the retina in the back of the eye from the changing vitreous. Floaters occur when loose vitreous fibers move across your field of vision. They appear as specks, strands, webs or other shapes as the fibers cast shadows on the retina.
These symptoms are most visible when looking at a plain, light colored background. Flashes and floaters often appear at the same time, although some patients may experience only one symptom.
Causes and Risk Factors
Floaters appear most often in eyes that are injured, inflamed or nearsighted. Flashes may occur after a blow to the head, or from a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, which is associated with migraine headaches. These symptoms may also occur as a result of surgery, laser, diabetes and inflammation of the retina.
In most cases, flashes and floaters appear as the vitreous pulls loose from the retina, creating shadows within the eye. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).
Diagnosing Flashes and Floaters
Although flashes and floaters are common, it is important to see your doctor if you experience them, as they may indicate a retinal tear which can lead to a retinal detachment. Your doctor will distinguish between harmless flashes and floaters, and those that may require treatment for an underlying condition.
Anyone experiencing a sudden abundance of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention in order to reduce the risk of complications such as severe vision loss.
Most flashes and floaters will become less noticeable with time as the vitreous totally separates from the retina and moves out of the line of sight. Although persistent floaters are harmless, it is important to continue to receive regular eye exams especially if new floaters are noticed.
Treatment for Flashes and Floaters
Since they are usually harmless, flashes and floaters do not usually require any treatment aside from regular monitoring. However, some patients may be bothered by the disturbances in their vision or may experience significant visual interference and therefore require more advanced treatment.
The only treatment available to reduce the appearance of flashes and floaters is through surgery to replace the vitreous through a vitrectomy. This procedure involves replacing the natural vitreous with a saline liquid. In the case of a retinal detachment, emergency treatment is necessary to prevent serious complications.
Your doctor will determine which, if any, type of treatment is necessary for your individual condition after a thorough evaluation of your eye's health. Most patients with flashes and floaters are able to effectively maintain their vision.