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 in vision occur as a result of a tugging on the retina in the back of the eye by the vitreous, and causes patients to see flashing lights or lightning streaks. Floaters occur when fibers move across the vitreous and into your field of vision, causing patients to see specks, strands, webs or other shapes as the fibers cast shadows on the retina. These spots are most visible when looking at a plain, light background. Flashes and floaters are common, especially as we age, but it is important to see your doctor if you experience them, as they may indicate a retinal tear or hole.
Most flashes and floaters occur in people with healthy or merely nearsighted eyes. They can be symptoms of serious problems including injury or retinal and posterior vitreous detachments. Patients experiencing flashes and floaters should contact their doctor immediately so an examination can be performed. Your doctor can distinguish between harmless flashes and floaters, and those that may require treatment for an underlying condition. Most flashes and floaters will become less noticeable with time as patients adjust to their vision. While these floaters are harmless, it is important to continue to receive regular eye exams to ensure that any permanent changes to your vision do not occur.
Mark D. Fromer, M.D., board certified ophthalmologist in surgery and treatment of eye diseases, has the distinction of being the eye surgeon for the New York Rangers hockey team. Dr. Fromer specializes in laser vision correction procedures, lectures extensively throughout the U.S., and maintains a very active role in teaching advanced surgical techniques and laser vision correction surgery to fellow ophthalmologists. For more information on this and other forms of advanced vision care, visit Fromer Eye Centers.© 2010 Dr. Mark Fromer
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