Treatment for flashes and floaters

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What are flashes and floaters?

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Everything you need to know about flashes and floaters

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It is not unusual to see flashes and floaters from time to time.

What are floaters?

Often, people who have healthy eyes see floaters. They appear as spots, lines or cobweb effects, usually when you look at a plain surface such as a white wall or a clear blue sky. As you age, floaters become more regular. 

What are flashes?

Sometimes the jelly in the main part of your eye shrinks a little and tugs on the retina (the light-sensitive layer) at the back of your eye. This can cause flashes of light at the edge of your vision. 

Retinal tear and detachement

Sometimes, flashes and floaters can be a sign and symptom of a retinal tear or detachment. The retina is at the back of your eye, it receives the images and sends them to the brain. This is one of the components that enables you to see. If the retina tears, it may come away from the back wall of the eye. This is called retinal detachment. It can result in partial or complete loss of vision.

If you suddenly notice a shower of new flashes and floaters or a dark shadow in your vision, then you should seek advice urgently. These symptoms can mean that the retina is tearing. Go to an accident and emergency department (A&E) if necessary.

You should look out for:

  • Flashes or floaters getting worse
  • A black shadow in your vision
  • A sudden cloud of spots
  • A curtain or veil over your vision
  • Any sudden loss of vision

A tear or detached retina is usually caused by changes to the jelly inside your eye, which can happen as you get older. This is called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

It’s not clear exactly why PVD can lead to retinal detachment in some people and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. But it’s more likely to happen if you:

  • Are short-sighted
  • Have had an eye operation (such as cataract surgery)
  • Have had an eye injury
  • Have a family history of retinal detachment

A full eye examination involves dilating the pupil so we are able to see the back of the eye, particularly the peripheral of the retina where the tears and holes are most likely to develop.

How is a retinal tear and detachment treated?

Treating a small tear on the retina can be done easily and successfully with laser treatment. However