Are you experiencing flashes of light, or floaters in your vision? You may be experiencing a posterior vitreous detachment, retinal tear, or a retinal detachment. It is important to see your eye care physician if you are seeing these symptoms.
Posterior vitreous detachment is an aging process of the eye. The vitreous is a clear jelly inside the eye, and as you age, the jelly will turn into liquid. As this occurs, the vitreous will separate from the retina. This floats above the retina which is why you can see floaters in your vision. The vitreous can also adhere to the retina, which may cause flashes of light. These flashes are very quick, often towards the outside of your vision, and are usually worse in dim light and with head movement.
Ocular migraines may appear very similar to a posterior vitreous detachment. Usually the flashes of light are pulsing, multicolored, lightning or circular shaped, and may obscure your vision. These symptoms will last several minutes and may be followed by a dull headache. However, this is often difficult to distinguish from a retinal problem, and you should see your eye care physician for a complete evaluation.
8-10% of patients with a posterior vitreous detachment may also have a retinal tear. This is a visually threatening condition, as the vitreous fluid can enter the retinal tear and cause a retinal detachment. If a retinal tear is found by your eye care physician without a retinal detachment, this can be addressed with a laser or freezing treatment in the office. However, if it has progressed to a retinal detachment, this generally needs to be treated surgically in the operating room. However, even with surgery, in some cases your vision will remain permanently blurry. It is imperative that you see your eye care specialist to prevent permanent vision loss. A retinal detachment is characterized by a visible gray or blurry curtain that progresses from the outside and moves toward the center of your vision. If you do notice any of the above symptoms, it is important that you see your eye care specialist urgently for an evaluation.