Floaters are one of the more enigmatic eye issues related to aging Over time, small flecks of protein can develop inside the eye and float around, casting shadows on the retina and demanding our concentration.
On the other hand, flashes are a more-serious occurrence, usually initiated by some kind of trauma to the head. They are usually indicative of a deeper problem and should instigate a visit to our practice for an emergency eye appointment.
Long story short, it requires a professional eye health examination to know whether or not these signs are benign, vision-threatening or perhaps harbingers of an underlying ocular illness.
When light enters the eye, it is focused by an outer lens and lands on the retina. From here it is transferred to the optic nerve, which converts the light into electrical signals which are interpreted by the brain as whatever we are looking at.
Flashes are caused by disturbances to the optic nerve, such as a blow to the head during a football game, and manifest as patches of light on top of our vision, aka “seeing stars”.
A large part of the inner eye is made up of a gel-like substance called the vitreous humor. Over time, this gel evolves into a more-liquid state and small buildups of protein can form, floating around the eye. These interfere with the retina (by obscuring light input from the cornea) and can disrupt vision.
In their own right, floaters are generally nothing to worry about. Once you notice them for the first time, you should arrange an appointment and undergo a quick eye health exam – the doctor will confirm any underlying condition and, if there isn’t anything, tell you not to worry. Many people live with benign floaters. However, should the number, size or activity of floaters change, make a return appointment – this can be a sign of worsened ocular health and should always be investigated.
As for flashes, they should always be treated seriously. Since they are not a natural occurrence, but are caused by trauma to the optic nerve, any experience of “seeing stars” should prompt a short-notice appointment. Flashes can indicate conditions as serious as retinal detachment, which causes total and permanent blindness in patients.
We are conveniently located at the corner of Peachtree Parkway and South Clement Rd, at the entrance to Creekstone Estates, in the Villages at CreekStone (near the intersection of HWY 141 and Old Alpharetta Rd).