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Are Floaters and Flashes Dangerous?

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You’ve likely experienced occasional visual “floaters” or flashes and may have wondered what they were and if they’re a cause for concern. They look like tiny lines, shapes, shadows, or specks that appear to be drifting in the visual field. More often than not, seeing floaters is a normal occurrence and does not indicate a problem with ocular or visual health. However, when floaters become more frequent and are accompanied by flashes of light, that can indicate a more serious problem. 

Eye flashes resemble star-like specks or strands of light that either flash or flicker in one’s field of vision. They can either be a single burst in one visual zone, or can be several flashes throughout a wider area. Flashes can sometimes be missed as they most often appear in the side or peripheral vision.

Floaters & Flashes Eye Care in Covington, KY 

If you suddenly, or with increasing frequency, experience flashes or floaters, call Metzger Eye Care and schedule an eye exam with Dr. Julie Metzger right away to rule out any serious eye conditions. 

What Causes Floaters?

The vitreous in the eye is a clear gel that fills most of the eyeball and resembles raw egg-white. Within the vitreous are small lumps of protein that drift around and move with the motion of your eyes. When these tiny lumps of protein cast shadows on the retina — the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye — the shadows appear as floaters. 

As we age, the vitreous shrinks, creating more strands of protein. This is why the appearance of floaters may increase with time. Floaters tend to be more prevalent in nearsighted people and diabetics, and occur more frequently following cataract surgery or an eye injury. 

If seeing floaters becomes bothersome, try moving your eyes up and down or side to side to gently relocate the floaters away from your visual field. 

What Causes Flashes? 

Flashes result from the retinal nerve cells being moved or tugged on. As the vitreous shrinks over time, it can tug at the retina, causing you to “see stars” or bursts of light. The process of the vitreous separating from the retina is called “posterior vitreous detachment” (PVD) and usually isn’t dangerous. 

In about 16% of cases, PVD causes tiny tears in the retina that can lead to retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that causes irreversible blindness if left untreated. 

Other possible causes of flashes are eye trauma or migraine headaches. 

When To Call Your Optometrist About Floaters

If you experience any of the following symptoms, promptly make an appointment with an eye doctor near you for emergency eye care. 

Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • A sudden onset of floaters accompanied by flashes (which can be any shape or size)
  • An increase of floaters accompanied by a darkening of one side of the visual field 
  • Shadows in the peripheral vision
  • Any time flashes are seen

In many cases, seeing floaters is no cause for concern; however the above symptoms could indicate retinal detachment—which, if left untreated, could cause a permanent loss of sight or even blindness. 

If the receptionists pick up the phone and hear the main concern is floaters or flashes, they will try to squeeze in the appointment within 24 hours. Expect the pupils to be dilated during your eye exam, so the eye doctor can get a really good look at the peripheral retina to diagnose or rule out a retinal tear or other serious condition, as opposed to a non-vision-threatening condition such as uncomplicated posterior vitreous detachment (quite common) or ocular migraine. 

Please contact Metzger Eye Care in Covington at 859-431-7966 with any further questions, or to schedule an eye doctor's appointment. 

The Metzger Eye Care family has lost one of their own. Please be patient with us as we mourn the loss of our company’s founder, Dr. Ferdinand Joseph Metzger.

Dr. Ferd was a Korean War Veteran and attended Optometry School on the GI Bill. He was a 1957 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry and the first licensed optometrist in Boone County. He spent his life as a skilled, respected, and knowledgeable eye care practitioner for his patients. He was a leader in his profession as President of both the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners and the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA). He was awarded the Clifford Leadingham Award by the KOA for his lifetime dedication to the profession of Optometry.

He was so proud to follow his uncles in the profession of optometry and thrilled to practice with his daughter, Mary Jo as an optician and optometrist Dr. Julie and nephew, Dr. Bill for so many years. We’re sure he will be greeted at heaven’s gate by our former optician Vina with a great big cheesecake for him and his wife Audrey as they reunite once again. Services are being arranged by Chambers and Grubbs Funeral Home in Florence.

 

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The Metzger Eye Care family has lost one of their own. Please be patient with us as we mourn the loss of our company’s founder, Dr. Ferdinand Joseph Metzger. Dr. Ferd was a Korean War Veteran and attended Optometry School on the GI Bill. He was a 1957 graduate of Illinois College of Optometry and the first licensed optometrist in Boone County. He spent his life as a skilled, respected and knowledgeable eye care practitioner for his patients. He was a leader in his profession as President of both the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners and the Kentucky Optometric Association (KOA). He was awarded the Clifford Leadingham Award by the KOA for his lifetime dedication to the profession of Optometry. He was so proud to follow his uncles in the profession of optometry and thrilled to practice with his daughter, Mary Jo as an optician and optometrists Dr. Julie and nephew, Dr. Bill for so many years.

We’re sure he will be greeted at heaven’s gate by our former optician Vina with a great big cheesecake for him and his wife Audrey as they reunite once again. Services are being arranged by Chambers and Grubbs Funeral Home in Florence.