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Retinal Detachment - When To Call a Doctor

Flashes of light and floaters often occur as you get older or with migraine headaches. Flashes of light in migraine headaches are often located in the center of your visual field. But flashes of light and floaters can also be signs of a problem that might lead to retinal detachment.

If flashes of light or floaters occur suddenly or in great numbers, or if you are not sure what to do, do not wait for vision loss to occur before you call your doctor. If you cannot reach your doctor, go to the emergency room. Although these symptoms do not cause pain and may seem harmless, getting an eye exam and quick treatment can send you home relieved or, if there is a problem, can save your vision.

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Watchful waiting

Taking a wait-and-see approach, called watchful waiting, is not an option if you have new or sudden flashes or floaters, darkness over part of your visual field, or a new loss of vision that does not go away. Sudden, rapid vision loss is a medical emergency.

Who to see

If you have symptoms that suggest that you might have or are at immediate risk for a retinal detachment, call your doctor immediately. If you do not have an eye doctor (ophthalmologist), call your regular doctor. Based on your symptoms, risk factors, and medical history, your doctor may refer you to an eye doctor for an immediate exam and possible treatment.

Treatment for retinal tears and detachments is often done by an eye doctor who specializes in retinal detachments.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: July 15, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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