If you are experiencing flashing lights, sudden vision loss, wavy vision, painful red eyes, any discharge, unusual light sensitivity, or any injury to the eyes, then call our office immediately or see your regular eye doctor without delay. 435-673-5577.

  Flashing lights and floaters in your vision can be benign or very serious.  Without examination, it is difficult to determine which.  The following are the most common causes of those symptoms:

Retinal Detachment: More serious

Retinal detachment occurs when he retina becomes separated from the underlining layers of eye. If a retinal detachment is not treated immediately, it can lead to permanent blindness. Because of this, a retinal detachment MUST be ruled out as a cause of flashing lights or floaters in your vision before moving on to possible other causes. One of the classic signs of a retinal detachment is seeing flashes of lights in your vision with or without your eyes open. A person suffering from a retinal detachment may see flickering lights, stars, flashes, curtains or a sudden rush of new floaters. It usually effects only one eye, although it is possible to have it in both. The symptoms can come on gradually, or they can be sudden, depending on the cause.  

Vitreous Detachment: Less Serious

As the human eye ages, the vitreous jelly that fills the cavity in the back of your eye tends to degrade and shrivel in a process called "syneresis."  Being loosely attached to vessels, the optic nerve, and the peripheral parts of the retina, it often pulls and tugs on the retina as it detaches from those points--which can cause flashing lights.  About 10 percent of the time, when it detaches, it can tear the retina and cause holes or detachments.  The symptoms of a vitreous detachment and a retinal detachment are sometimes indistinguishable.

Trauma: More serious

Trauma to the head is another possible cause of flashing lights but not floaters. When you have a blow to the head, you may describe "seeing stars" and having dizziness. In bad cases it is possible to loose consciousness, or experience nausea and vomiting. Head trauma can also be a possible cause for a retinal detachment.

Migraine Headaches: Less serious

Migraine headaches can occur with aura or without aura, you can also have aura without the migraine. Aura can also be described as an ocular migraine and the symptom is flashing lights or light patterns. A classic migraine includes the headache and the light flashes or aura also. There are no floaters associated with migraines or aura. Most floaters are not harmful and rarely limit vision. But, they can be indications of more serious problems, and you should see your optometrist for a dilated eye examination when you notice sudden changes or increases in the number of floaters. By looking in your eyes with special instruments, your optometrist can examine the health of your eyes and determine if what you are observing is harmless or the symptom of a more serious problem that requires treatment.  

Floaters: What are they?

Floaters are small pieces of material that form in the vitreous -- the clear fluid that fills the interior cavity of the eye. Floaters are usually clumps of condensed protein or cells, seen as small specks or strands moving into your field of vision. They may have the appearance of a small insect or cobweb or veil. Almost every eye has floaters and are a normal visual observation. A sudden increase in spots or floaters should be evaluated by your doctor. Floaters are most apparent when you are looking at a plain background such as a blank wall or blue sky. They can be seen because they create shadows on the retina, the light sensitive film at the back of the eye.

Light Flashes

Flashes of light lasting a few seconds may appear in your vision when the vitreous gel pulls or tugs on the retina. This may happen as a natural result of aging or it may occur temporarily if you receive a blow to the head or eye. Usually these flashes, which are often described as lightning streaks, are noticed at night. Light flashes appearing as wavy lines in both eyes and lasting from a few minutes to half-an-hour, are usually a sign of an ocular migraine headache. Migraine-related flashes are often noticed in a lighted environment. Flashes of this nature are not a symptom of eye problems. If you suffer from ocular migraines, contact your family physician for assistance. The onset of new light flashes of short duration at night, especially when accompanied by the appearance of many new floaters or a blackening out of part of your field of vision, may indicate a retinal tear or detachment. If you experience light flashes in combination with these symptoms, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.

What Should Be Done About Floaters And Flashes?

Usually the appearance of new floaters or light flashes does not indicate any serious eye problem. However, the only way to ensure that the floaters or flashes are not symptomatic of a more serious problem, is to have your retina examined. If, following the exam, you develop large numbers of new floaters that seem to get worse over time, we recommend that you have your eyes re-examined. When floaters appear in your line of vision, move your eye around -- up and down as well as from side to side. This movement creates a swirling in the vitreous fluid and may cause the floater to move out of your field of vision. To safeguard your vision, routine comprehensive eye exams are recommended.


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