This educational video is intended to enlighten patients about the symptoms of flashes and floaters and what they mean.
What should you do if you do notice flashes or floaters in your vision? We hope to give you a better understanding of the reasons that you may experience these symptoms.
The symptoms of retinal detachment vary enormously. The most common symptoms will include flashing lights in the periphery of vision, floaters (particles interfering with your normal visual scene which sometimes look like a fly in front of your eyes or opaque dots or squiggles in the way of vision which move when you move your eye) and veils or cobwebs blocking vision.
Dilation involves drops which make your pupil big so your optometrist is able to assess the back of your eye right out into the periphery. We do not recommend that you drive for several hours after you have a dilating drops in your eyes as they can affect vision and cause uncomfortable and distracting glare. You may experience large pupils and more sensitivity to light for up to a day though most symptoms have usually resolved after 6 hours. The optometrist will complete an inner-eye examination, visual field check, pressure check, vision check and often advise an OCT scan to rule out other causes. If you are found to have a tear, break or detachment of the retina, the optometrist will get in contact with you local hospital eye department to arrange an ophthalmologist review.
Retinal detachment has several causes. It is normal that inside of the eye is filled with a jelly called the vitreous. As we get older it is normal for the jelly to pull away from the retina and become more liquid-like. Sometimes the jelly is attached in certain places more than others. When the jelly pulls away, letting go of the retina it is called a posterior (back of eye) vitreous (jelly in the eye) detachment (lets go).
When the jelly in the eye pulls on the retina at a weak link (usually at the periphery) and does not let go, the retina can tear causing a retinal detachment.
As mentioned earlier, you are more at risk of retinal detachment if you are a moderate to high myope (short-sighted/ minus prescription), if you have a family history of retinal detachment, previous retinal detachment in either eye, trauma to the eyes, cataract or other eye surgeries or diabetes.
Differential diagnosis- there are other reasons why you might experience flashing lights and floaters in your vision. These include but are not limited to:
Information relating to these conditions can be found elsewhere on our website.
Treatment- If the tear, hole or detachment is small and peripheral, it is often treated with laser, which can act like glue, holding the remaining retina in place. If it is larger or the macular is affected, surgery maybe required. This may include using gas or silicone to push the retina back into place. Your treatment will be planned in consultation with a retinal ophthalmologist.
If floaters are due to PVD (posterior vitreous detachment) only with no retinal detachment this normally does not require treatment as many people stop noticing floaters after a period of time. This maybe because floaters break up or because our brain stops noticing them.
It is possible to have persistant floaters removed by having a Floater-Vitrectomy if they are centrally placed and affect your vision adversely. This operation carries risks which vary from individual to individual. It is important to discuss this fully before proceeding with surgery.
You may be referred privately or through the NHS. You may choose the consultant you see, be seen quicker and may have faster treatment through a private consultation.
If you experience new flashes or floaters in your vision, or veils, cobweb appearance or reduced vision, you should be seen as soon as possible. Do not wait to see if the floaters disappear as they could be an indication of a more serious condition. A retinal detachment is a medical emergency!
Further information can be found on the Matheson Optometrists website.