Have you ever noticed a strange squiggly line in the corner of your eye that disappears when you try to look at it? Do you occasionally see bright white lights or sparks in your eyes?
Don’t worry, you aren’t going crazy. What you are seeing are floaters and flashes, and they’re a common experience. Keep reading to learn more about floaters and flashes, what they mean, and what you can do about them.
Floaters and Flashes are Lights and Shadows
Floaters may appear to be strings or clumps of material drifting across the surface of your eye. But, this is actually not actually the case.
Floaters occur in the gel-like substance that gives your eye its round shape. The medical term for this gel is vitreous or vitreous humor.
The vitreous is a transparent structural material. It gives your eye its shape and allows light to pass through it uninhibited to the retina. It is not free-floating but is instead connected directly to the retina.
Proteins inside the vitreous can clump together, which happens as you age or if you are nearsighted. As the gel shrinks and becomes stringy, it causes floaters in your vision.
When you see a floater, you aren’t looking at the protein itself. You are looking at a shadow that the protein clump is casting on your retina.
You can never get a good look at a floater because as you move your eye, the protein shifts around too. Eventually, it will leave your vision entirely.
Flashes also occur more as you age and as the vitreous contracts. When the vitreous shrinks, it tugs on the retina because of the connection between them.
This tugging causes a brief malfunction in the retina, which sends a flashing signal to the brain. A flash can also occur when the vitreous bumps into or rubs against the retina.
When Flashes and Floaters are a Problem
Flashes and floaters are not themselves harmful to your vision. But they can become distracting if they occur often enough or in large enough numbers.
More importantly, a sudden increase in either or both can be a signal of a severe problem with your vision. Retinal tears or detachments can produce a rapid increase in flashes and floaters.
Both conditions can lead to severe and permanent vision loss if left untreated. Neither a tear nor a detachment in your retina is painful, so it may not be evident if you have one.
Act Quickly to Save Your Eyesight
A rapid increase in flashes and floaters may be the only warning sign of either condition. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience these rapid changes in your vision.
If you get treatment in time, you can treat the retina with surgery. Quick action could save your vision if you have a retinal detachment or tear.
There is also a surgical procedure if you are experiencing so many floaters that they’re blocking your vision. However, you may be able to deal with your floaters simply by moving your eyes around when they appear.
Schedule an appointment at Frantz EyeCare in Ft. Myers, FL, to determine what is causing your flashes and floaters.