Flashes and Floaters
Advice for Patients
Experiencing “floaters” or spots in front of the eyes is a very common symptom noticed by patients. In many cases these are caused by aging changes in the vitreous jelly of the eye, have been present for a long time and are of little significance.
However the appearance of new floaters or dots in the vision or flashes of light must be investigated immediately by your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
In many cases, new floaters or spots in the vision or flashes of light are caused by the vitreous jelly detaching itself from its loose contact with the retina. The process of separation of the vitreous from the retina (posterior vitreous detachment or PVD) usually takes a few weeks but sometimes longer to complete. Once the vitreous has separated from the retina then there are no clinical consequences apart from the slight nuisance of seeing floaters in the vision. By the age of 60 years about 30% of the population will have a PVD and in most cases the process is uncomplicated.
However, the reason why new floaters or flashes of light must be checked is that in a small proportion of patients, an area of the vitreous jelly may have difficulty in separating itself from the retina and may cause a retinal tear which can then lead to more serious sight threatening conditions such as retinal detachment.
Your optometrist will dilate your pupils and examine the vitreous and retina with the slit lamp microscope and, at Barnard Levit Optometrists an Optomap wide field retinal image is also catured for analysis. If the PVD is uncomplicated your optometrist will usually ask to re-examine you around six weeks later and repeat the examination. If in the interim the floaters or flashes, change or worsen or if you see a curtain coming across your vision you are to seek attention immediately by attending the casualty department of an eye hospital on the same day.
If you need emergency advice, out of practice hours phone numbers are:
Simon Barnard 07811 399 666; Alex Levit 07813 160631
There is a 24 hour Eye Accident & Emergency Department at Moorfields Eye Hospital, City Road, London EC1