Floaters and Flashes

Small specks, spots and flashes of light in the field of vision are called flashes and floaters. Caused by changes in the fluid of the eye, flashes and floaters are generally not causes for concern. Flashes can also occur with migraine headaches.

In some cases, floaters and flashes may be the symptoms of a more serious eye problem, such as retinal tear, or retinal detachment. The retina tears as the internal eye fluid shrinks and pulls away from the retina, causing bleeding that appears as a new set of floaters. Retinal tears require immediate medical attention to prevent retinal detachment which could result in partial or total loss of vision.

If you've noticed little specks floating across your vision when you stare at a blank wall or a clear blue sky, you're not alone. Floaters are typically harmless pieces of tissue that can appear in your vision as dots, squiggly lines, or dust. These little pieces of tissue are actually located deep within your eyeballs. Read more about floaters and flashes below and get in touch with Southwest Eye Care if you have concerns about your vision.

Floaters and Flashes in the Eye

Are floaters and flashes dangerous? Usually not, but sometimes they can represent a more insidious problem. Some patients in Albuquerque who have experienced floaters or flashes in their vision may be extremely concerned, while others who have grown used to the phenomenon shrug off the drifting specks as a normal part of life. If you are concerned, schedule an evaluation with us to learn more.

Eye Floaters

The middle gel-like part of the eyeball is called the vitreous. As people reach middle age, the vitreous begins to thicken. This is a normal part of aging and is usually not a medical concern; however, the small clumps of tissue that can develop in the vitreous over time may be worrisome to patients who experience them as floaters or specks in their vision. While floaters are not usually dangerous to your health, in certain cases, they can be severe.

Eye Flashes

Have you ever taken a sudden hit to the head in the middle of a tennis match and "seen stars"? This type of eye flash is caused by the vitreous colliding with or rubbing against your retina. In most cases, it's not harmful, but in some, these flashes can represent a more serious problem. See our FAQs for situations where you may need to have your eyes examined after noticing frequent eye flashes.

Perhaps you know you're getting a migraine when you see flashes that remind you of lightning. These flashes often last for several minutes and precede a migraine — but sometimes, you can have this "aura" without experiencing the debilitating pain of a migraine headache. An ophthalmic migraine is considered a migraine without the headache component, or, in other words, eye flashes that do not lead to pain.

Southwest Eyecare examining a patient's eyes in Albuquerque

Frequently Asked Questions About Floaters and Flashes

Even if you suspect your floaters are harmless, or you know your flashes of light are caused by a migraine, it's a good idea to educate yourself on the basics of these eye conditions to know when they may be signs of a more serious eye problem. Read through our FAQs below, and don't hesitate to contact us if you don't see your answer listed here.

Can I Ignore Infrequent Flashes of Light?

Maybe. If your eye flashes happen regularly during certain events or medical conditions that have already been diagnosed (such as ophthalmic migraine), it's probably safe to proceed as usual. If your flashes are becoming more frequent and you have no idea what's causing them, it's better to be safe than sorry. Schedule an evaluation to determine whether these flashes are a problem that may impact your vision over time.

When Are Flashes of Light Considered Serious?

After an accident or injury, eye flashes that happen suddenly or cause shadows in your peripheral vision can be signs of a detached retina. This means that your retina has been torn or pulled away from the back of your eye, and it's a condition that needs to be addressed immediately by your medical team in Albuquerque to prevent vision loss. You may also experience new or more severe floaters if your retina is detached. If you act quickly, there's a good chance you will be able to protect your vision.

What Happens if I Don't Treat My Floaters?

It’s likely nothing, but it's a good idea to check them out if you suddenly have floaters or these dots or lines distract you from work and everyday life. A few floaters in the eye here and there can represent the normal thickening of the vitreous, while large floaters accompanied by other strange symptoms or eye flashes may be a sign of retinal detachment or another medical problem that should be addressed immediately.

Why Should I Visit an Ophthalmologist Instead of an Optometrist or Optician?

The term "eye doctor" has become a catch-all term for any professional who examines patients' eyes, but these professions are not interchangeable. Opticians are trained to fit glasses and lenses, but they cannot provide patients with eye exams. Optometrists are the professionals you may visit to get your yearly eye exam. They screen for eye disease, provide you with glasses, and update your prescription. Though these individuals have many advanced qualifications, they are not medical doctors.

Ophthalmologists are doctors who have completed medical school, hold an MD degree, and have undergone additional training in the detection, treatment, and prevention of eye diseases and conditions. If you have a medical condition that affects your vision or you are concerned about floaters or flashes of light in your vision, it's a good idea to schedule an evaluation with an opthalmologist.

Get In Touch With Southwest Eyecare in Albuquerque

If you have questions about your eye flashes and floaters, or have new problems or become worse, let us help. Our board-certified ophthalmologists will perform a thorough evaluation and find the cause of your bothersome symptoms. Contact us today to find the right time for your appointment!

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