How do they occur?
Flashes and floaters result from changes in the vitreous. The vitreous is the gel that fills most of the hollow eyeball. Flashes and floaters can occur at any age.
As you get older, you may suddenly see a large floater. As part of the normal aging, the vitreous gets more watery and begins to separate from the back of the eye or retina. After separating, the vitreous moves forward, floating in the middle of the eye cavity, causing you to see a large floater. This process is called a vitreous detachment, and is most common after age 55.
What are the symptoms?
- You see spots that look like little bugs, threads, or cobwebs.
- The spots usually shift away from your focus when you try to look at them and are most noticeable in bright light.
- Sometimes you also see flashing lights.
How are they treated?
Most floaters don't require treatment. However, sometimes floaters are a symptom of a tear in the retina. This is a potentially serious problem that usually requires treatment. Without treatment, fluid could leak through the tear and cause the retina to detach. The only treatment for a detached retina is surgery.
The warning signs of a retinal tear or detachment include seeing many new flashing lights or showers of many new floaters, blurred vision, or a curtain like blockage of vision. If you experience these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
How long do the effects last?
Floaters not caused by a retinal tear or detachment are a nuisance, but harmless. They may never go away completely, but they tend to become much less noticeable with time. However, if the floaters or flashes are a symptom of a retinal detachment, permanent and severe loss of vision could result without treatment.
FAQ: Color Blindness
Q: What is color blindness?
Sometimes called color vision deficiency, color blindness describes a number of problems in identifying various colors and shades. Abnormal color vision may vary from only a slight difficulty distinguishing among different shades of the same color to the rare inability to distinguish any colors.
Q: Who is affected by color vision deficiency?
It's estimated that eight percent of males, and fewer than one percent of females, have some difficulty with color vision. Most types of color vision problems are present at birth.
But some people have color vision problems that aren't due to heredity. One common problem occurs with the normal aging of the eye's lens. Although our lenses are clear at birth, the aging process causes them to darken. Older adults may have trouble distinguishing one dark color from another. Also, certain medications and retinal or optic nerve disease may disrupt normal color vision.
Q: Who should be tested for color vision deficiency?
Any child who is having difficulty in school should be checked for potential vision problems, including color vision. Others include those who have a family history of color vision deficiency, are considering occupations that require fine color discrimination, or are having problems identifying colors.
Q: What can be done about faulty color vision?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hereditary color vision deficiency, although some measures can be taken to compensate for the problem. For example, people can develop their own "system" or be taught to recognize colors by other means, such as by brightness or location.
If you suspect that you may not be seeing as well as you should, the best advice is to explore it together with your eye doctor.