Eye Floaters, Flashing Lights, and Migraines.
What are eye floaters?
Eye floaters are specks moving in our field of vision. It’s easy to see eye floaters when we stare at a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters look like tiny dots, rectangles, circles, lines, or clouds that move around when we try to focus on them.
What are they? Eye floaters are tiny groups of cells inside the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of our eye. When they float around inside the eye, we see the shadows they cast on the retina which sits on the back of the eye and senses light.
What causes floaters?
When we reach middle age, the gel of the eye (the vitreous) may thicken or shrink and sometimes forms tiny clumps or strings that may pull away from the back wall of the eye When they do, they float in the normal gel. This causes visible shadows on the retina.
Are eye floaters worth worrying about?
Floaters in the eyes are common as we grow older but are not usually serious. Unless the floaters are large and cause visual impairment, treatment for eye floaters is usually unnecessary.
If you are alarmed by the sudden appearance of new floaters, please contact Doctor Van to check for a possible torn retina and/or retinal detachment. Occasionally the retina can tear when the shrinking gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters. It’s worth checking because a torn retina can lead to a retina detachment.
Generally, eye floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome, so there is typically no required treatment. However, even if you’ve had eye floaters for years, you should schedule an eye examination with Doctor Van Amerongen if you suddenly notice new ones, or if you notice any loss of central vision. While eye floater removal is not typically recommended, you may benefit from one or two treatments that are available.
Do you “see stars” or flashing lights in your eyes?
If you’ve ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars,” the vitreous gel has rubbed against the retina. When this happens, you may see flashing lights, stars, or lightning streaks.
As we grow older, it is more common to see these light flashes in the eyes without being hit. The flashing lights in the eyes can appear off and on for weeks or months. While treatment of floaters and flashes is not always necessary, you should contact Doctor Van Amerongen for a comprehensive eye exam if you notice the sudden appearance of flashing lights in the eyes. It may indicate a torn retina.
Flashing lights and migraines.
Some people see flashing lights in their eyes that appear as jagged lines or waves in both eyes, some call it an aura, often lasting 10 to 20 minutes. This is not related to shrinking or thickening eye gel or bleeding in our eyes. These light flashes are caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain: a migraine. If a headache follows the flashes, it is called a migraine headache.
These jagged lines or waves also can occur without a headache. In this case, the light flashes are called Retinal Migraines, a type of migraine that affects the eyes.
Retinal migraines normally attack one eye with a throbbing pain. They come on suddenly and have several symptoms, including:
- temporary vision loss that usually lasts 10 to 20 minutes but sometimes as long as an hour.
- a blind spot in your vision.
- a headache – you may get this at the same time as the eye symptoms or shortly after.
- some people report symptoms such as blurred vision and the appearance of flashing lights, zigzag light patterns, or colored spots or lines.
- feeling sick or being sick.
- sometimes you can have eye symptoms without a headache.
Do we want to know what’s going on inside our eyes?
Doctor Van Amerongen will perform a complete, thorough, and painless eye exam to carefully observe all areas of your eye, including the retina and vitreous, and to check for any clear eye floaters. There is no need for pupil dilation at Van’s Eyecare. Doctor Van has a camera that can record digital photos of the retina. Treatment for floaters in the eye and flashing lights in the eyes, as well as migraines, are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Why are complete eye exams essential for everyone?
Eye disease can occur at any age, and many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until damage has occurred. Since most blindness is preventable if diagnosed and treated early, regular examinations by your Loveland optometrist are extremely important.
Van’s Eyecare and Doctor Kenneth Van Amerongen provide comprehensive eye exams, treatments and services for eye diseases, and consultation for floaters in the eye, as well as regular eye care, prescription glasses, and contact lenses.