Floaters (arrows) are protein condensations in the vitreous of the eye

Flashes are often perceived as bright flashes of light in the peripheral vision. They are often noticed in the early evening or in areas of low ambient light. Patients may describe them looking a like lightning flashes or a camera flash in the corner of the vision.

 

Floaters are often perceived as small black shapes that move slowly in the visual field. Some patients describe floaters as appearing like little insects or a spider’s web in the vision. Flashes and floaters are often due to the vitreous jelly in the eye physically separating from the retina at the back of the eye. This is known as a Posterior Vitreous Detachment, or PVD.

floaters

Impression of floaters against a blue sky

Occasionally a PVD can cause holes or tears in the retina. This is by mechanical traction pulling on the retina and causing a retinal tear or hole. Often this occurs in the periphery of the retina, and requires a comprehensive dilated retinal examination to detect. The picture below demonstrates a retinal tear (arrow) on ultrawide field imaging.

 

Retinal Tear

A retinal tear needs to be urgently assessed and treated. The main treatment options are retinal laser or freezing therapy (cryotherapy) to minimise the risk of a retinal detachment. Retinal laser can be performed in the rooms at Eye and Retina Specialists as an in-office procedure.

 

Retinal laser

 

If not treated, fluid can enter through the tear and underneath the retina, causing a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is a serious surgical emergency, and can cause loss of vision. The image below demonstrates a large retinal detachment that resulted from an untreated retinal tear.

                                                                                    Retinal detachment

If you have had recent onset of new floaters, flashes or a curtain obstructing your vision, or a recent change in your symptoms, it is important to seek urgent ophthalmic care.