Flashers & Floaters in Baltimore
Also serving Pikesville, Glen Burnie & Rosedale
Nearly everyone will experience visual abnormalities known as floaters and flashers at some point in life. Most of the time, floaters and flashers are harmless. But sometimes, they can serve as a warning sign of a serious issue affecting important parts of the visual system.
Dr. Michael Elman and the team at Elman Retina Group are very knowledgeable about floaters and flashers. We can quickly determine whether they are harmless or symptomatic of a bigger problem that requires expert treatment.
What Are Flashers?
Flashers, or flashes of light, appear as sudden bursts, flickers or streaks of light. They are similar to the phenomenon of “seeing stars” after a blow to the head.
These flashes of light are usually caused by a problem with the vitreous, or the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye. The vitreous presses against the retina, which is the delicate layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. With age, the vitreous can shrink and pull away from the retina. When the retina is physically tugged, it sends an electrical impulse to the brain, which the brain interprets as a flash or flicker of light.
Sometimes flashes of light are harmless, but in other cases they may indicate that the retina is peeling away from its normal position along the back wall of the eye (similar to a piece of wallpaper peeling away from a wall). This is called retinal detachment. Retinal detachment requires immediate medical attention to reattach the retina and prevent permanent vision loss.
Flashes of light can also indicate that the retina has developed a small tear or hole from the vitreous tugging on it. If a small tear or hole has appeared, vitreous can enter this opening and lift the retina away from its normal position, leading to retinal detachment.
Retinal detachment and retinal tear can be treated several ways. Laser energy can be used to fuse the retina to its normal position at the back of the eye or a gas bubble can be injected into the eye to gently press the retina back into place. A small device called a scleral buckle can be placed on the outside of the eye to fix a detached retina and restore vision. Or, vitrectomy, which involves removing some or all of the vitreous from the eye and replacing it with a saline solution, can also be used to treat the problem.
What Are Floaters?
Floaters are spots that appear to drift around in the field of vision. They can look like dots, lines, specks or cobwebs. They appear as if they are in front of or on the eyes, and they whiz away when focusing on them directly.
Most floaters occur when undissolved particles of vitreous clump together and float around in the liquid center of the vitreous, casting shadows on the retina as light passes through the eye.
Other causes of floaters include trauma to the eye and migraine headaches.
Persistent floaters that appear to get bigger and start to interfere with vision can be treated one of two ways. Dr. Elman can perform a vitrectomy; or, he can use a laser beam to break apart large floaters.
If floaters are accompanied by flashes of light, it may indicate retinal detachment. Retinal detachment must be treated promptly to preserve vision.
Contact Our Retina Specialists
If you are experiencing persistent floaters or flashes of light and would like to be screened by our retinal specialists, please schedule an appointment today.