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What Causes Eye Flashes and Floaters?

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Are eye flashes or floaters a sign to get emergency eye care?

Many people have floaters, which appear like squiggly lines or specks gliding past their visual field. Eye flashes are also common, which look like flickering sparks of light. Usually these drifting images become so familiar that you stop noticing them. Although, you may still think about them – and check to see if they’re still around. But whenever you try to focus directly on your floaters, they seem to zoom away in response. It’s only after your eyeball stops moving that you’ll see them drifting slowly and aimlessly again. Sound familiar?

You may also wonder, are floaters ever a cause for concern? Our eye doctor at Village Eye Centre explains the possible causes of eye flashes and floaters, and explains when they’re a reason to visit our eye care centre in North Edmonton, Downtown Edmonton, and Sherwood Park, Alberta.

What are eye flashes and floaters?

The back of your eyeball is filled with vitreous humor, a transparent, stable gel similar to egg white. The vitreous gel provides a pathway for light to enter your eye and travel through the lens to the retina. Once light reaches the retinal cells, images are captured and transmitted to your brain via the optic nerve.

As you age, the vitreous humor starts to slowly shrink, and the texture can become stringier. Strands of the vitreous gel, which are actually tiny cell clusters or a bit of protein, develop. These are floaters. However, when you see them – you are really seeing the shadows these cell clusters cast onto your retina.

Eye flashes have a different cause. They occur when your vitreous gel tugs or bumps against your retina.

Do all people get floaters?

Not everyone sees floaters, but most do – especially the older you get. At our eye care offices in North Edmonton, Downtown Edmonton, and Sherwood Park, Alberta, we regularly diagnose patients with these visual specks.

Floaters are also more common in people who suffered an eye injury in the past, underwent cataract removal surgery, or have nearsightedness or diabetes.

Are eye flashes and floaters a sign of a medical problem?

Typically, floaters and flashes are harmless and don’t require treatment. But sometimes they’re a warning sign of a sight-threatening eye condition, especially when a group of new floaters appears suddenly.

As the vitreous shrinks, it can pull on the retina and detach from it. When this happens, it’s called a posterior vitreous detachment, which leads to a retinal tear, which requires emergency eye care. If you have a retinal tear, inner eye fluid can leak through it and separate the rest of the retina from the tissues around it.

If you suddenly see a bunch of new floaters appear, call our eye doctor immediately to book an urgent eye exam at one of our offices in North Edmonton, Downtown Edmonton, and Sherwood Park, Alberta.

At Village Eye Centre, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 587-410-5920 or book an appointment online to see one of our North Edmonton eye doctors.

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