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
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.
Periodic comprehensive eye exams by an eye doctor are essential to monitor the health of your eyes and diagnose suspected problems. Checking the position of each eye and its movements will reveal crossed eyes or other forms of strabismus. The exam may include these parts:
An eye chart uses letters of decreasing size to determine the sharpness of your vision at a distance.
The retinoscope projects a thin beam of light into the eye. When used with the rotating lens dial (called...
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.