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Flashes and Floaters

By Dr. William Kimball

Optometrist William Kimball in Farmington & Southbury, Connecticut.

New symptoms of flashes and floaters should never be ignored.  The term “floaters” is used to describe gray spots of varying shapes that seem to float through one’s vision.  They may seem to move away if you try to look directly at them.  While some floaters are benign in nature others can be indicative of a sight-threatening condition. Many of us appreciate one or more small floaters in our vision but any increase in the size or number of floaters should be evaluated. The presence of flashes along with floaters raises the level of concern.  “Flashes” are perceived lights often described as sparks or lightning in one’s side vision.  Flashes are more noticeable in a dark or dimly lit environment.  Flashes and floaters are often seen when a retina is at risk of tear or detachment.  The retina may be compromised by a prior eye injury or even the result of normal shrinking of the vitreous humor which is the gel-like filling of the inner eye.  Only a dilated examination of the retina performed by an eye doctor can identify the cause of flashes and floaters.  Emergency rooms and urgent care centers would typically be unable to do so.

Recently I myself experienced these symptoms and my wife, Dr. Liann Kimball quickly identified a small retinal tear.  Fortunately, a timely and painless laser procedure prevented any loss of vision.  My case is not at all uncommon.  Should you experience new floaters especially if accompanied by flashes call us at the Southbury or Farmington Progressive Eye Care office right away so that our doctors can determine the cause and if necessary arrange for treatment that could prevent permanent vision loss.