What are flashes and floaters and how are they treated?


Quite often patients come to me complaining of seeing new flashing lights or floaters. Now, it’s not unusual to see floaters from time to time, especially if you have high prescription myopia. This is degeneration or changes to the vitreous – the gel inside the eye. If there are new floaters or flashing lights then it is important to see an eye specialist and have your retina examined.

The reason for that is that flashing lights could indicate that there is some stress on the retina, meaning that there might be a small tear or hole(s) developing on the retina. Now, treating small tears on the retina can be done easily and successfully with laser treatment. However, if the hole allows the fluids to leak behind it, then the retina will detach and you will need more major surgery called retina detachment repair. This is a big operation that requires a specialist to do it.

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For example, I had a patient who came to see me a few months ago, panicking about a new development of flashing lights and floaters. A full eye examination involved dilating the pupil to be able to see the back of the eye, especially the peripheral of the retina where the tears and holes are more likely to develop. The examination showed that the patient had no problem with their retina, however, the vitreous – that is the gel inside the eye – was not firmly attached to the retina. It was peeling off the retina and becoming looser.

This is a kind of benign condition where we call posterior vitreous detachment, where the gel just starts to float freely inside the eye. As a result, the vision starts to see floaters. Although it was good news that the retina appeared to be safe, we always give these patients what they called flashing and floaters advice. We tell them that if you develop a new flashing light, have a new floater that you have not experienced before, or if you’re losing part of the peripheral vision then you need to see a specialist because this could mean that the retina is about to detach.

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About the expert

Mr Samer Hamada | Consultant Ophthalmologist and Corneal Surgeon

MD, MSc, DO (hons), FRCSEd, FRCOphth I am Samer Hamada, founder and consultant ophthalmic surgeon with over 20 years’ experience in ophthalmology. I am a world-renowned specialist in cornea, cataract and refractive surgery. I’m not only a leading surgeon but also the only dual fellowship trained in corneal diseases in children from reputable institutions in the UK. At Eye Clinic London I work closely with other consultant ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists to achieve the best outcomes for our patients. Our main aim is to make sure our patients get the safest and best treatments available to them. We put your safety before anything else so you can rest assured that if you choose us you will be in the best and safest hands.

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