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Are Floaters and Flashes Dangerous?

You’ve likely experienced occasional visual “floaters” or small movements across your line of vision and may have wondered what they were and if they’re a cause for concern. They look like tiny lines, shapes, shadows, or specks that appear to be drifting in the visual field. More often than not, seeing floaters is a normal occurrence and does not indicate a problem with ocular or visual health. However, when floaters become more frequent and are accompanied by flashes of light, that can indicate a more serious problem.

Eye flashes resemble star-like specks or strands of light that either flash or flicker in one’s field of vision. They can either be a single burst in one visual zone, or can be several flashes throughout a wider area. Flashes can sometimes be missed as they most often appear in the side or peripheral vision.

Floaters & Flashes Eye Care in Longview, Texas

If you suddenly, or with increasing frequency, experience flashes or floaters, call August Wallace Eyecare Associates and schedule an eye exam with Dr. August Wallace right away to rule out any serious eye conditions.

What Causes Floaters?

The eye has a clear gel that fills most of the eyeball and resembles raw egg-white. Within the gel or vitreous are small lumps of protein that drift around and move with the motion of your eyes. When these tiny lumps of protein cast shadows on the retina — the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye — the shadows appear as floaters.

As we age, the vitreous shrinks, creating more strands of protein. This is why the appearance of floaters may increase with time. Floaters tend to be more prevalent in nearsighted people and diabetics, and occur more frequently following cataract surgery or an eye injury.

If seeing floaters becomes bothersome, try moving your eyes up and down or side to side to gently relocate the floaters away from your visual field.

What Causes Flashes?

Flashes result from the retinal nerve cells being moved or tugged on. As the vitreous shrinks over time, it can tug at the retina, causing you to “see stars” or bursts of light. The process of the vitreous separating from the retina is called “posterior vitreous detachment” (PVD) and usually isn’t dangerous.

In about 16% of cases, PVD causes tiny tears in the retina that can lead to retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that causes irreversible blindness if left untreated.

Other possible causes of flashes are eye trauma or migraine headaches.

When To Call Your Optometrist About Floaters

If you experience any of the following symptoms, promptly make an appointment with an eye doctor near you for emergency eye care.

Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • A sudden onset of floaters accompanied by flashes (which can be any shape or size)
  • An increase of floaters accompanied by a darkening of one side of the visual field
  • Shadows in the peripheral vision
  • Any time flashes are seen

In many cases, seeing floaters is no cause for concern; however the above symptoms could indicate retinal detachment—which, if left untreated, could cause a permanent loss of sight or even blindness.

If the receptionists pick up the phone and hear the main concern is floaters or flashes, they will try to squeeze in the appointment within 24 hours. Expect the pupils to be dilated during your eye exam, so the eye doctor can get a really good look at the peripheral retina to diagnose or rule out a retinal tear or other serious condition, as opposed to a non-vision-threatening condition such as uncomplicated posterior vitreous detachment (quite common) or ocular migraine.

Please contact August Wallace Eyecare Associates in Longview at 903-663-2020 with any further questions, or to schedule an eye doctor’s appointment.

See Under the Sea & in the Swimming Pool Too

Wear goggles for clear & healthy underwater vision

You don’t swim naked at a public beach or swimming pool, and you shouldn’t swim with naked eyes either! At the beach, it’s hard to know if ocean water is really clean and not polluted, and the sand and salt content can make your eyes sting. If you prefer swimming in a pool, remember that while pool water can be clean, that’s only because it’s packed with chlorine, which can seriously irritate your eyes, stripping away your lubricating film and causing redness, pain, and blurry vision.

Goggles are the ideal solution for protecting your delicate eyes against the harshness of water. Also, due to advanced materials and modern engineering of the lenses in swim goggles, they provide crisper underwater vision than ever before! Your knowledgeable Longview eye doctor explains about the benefits and features of goggles:

Prescription goggles

If you normally need eyeglasses or contacts to see above water, our Longview optometrist strongly recommends buying a pair of prescription goggles for underwater vision. For you to see, light rays reflect off an object, enter your eyes, and are focused on your retina clearly. However, light rays don’t function the same way when they are in water. That’s why the floor of a swimming pool appears higher up than it really is. In general, goggles correct this problem by creating an air-filled gap around your eyes. But this doesn’t give sharp sight to swimmers who need vision correction. If you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, you’ll need prescription goggles to see.

Wearing contact lenses and standard goggles

A lot of people are in the habit of wearing standard goggles over their contact lenses, instead of purchasing a pair of prescription goggles. What’s the problem with this? Actually, water is the problem

Water in all bodies – lakes, pools, oceans, and hot tubs – is a natural breeding ground for bacteria and microorganisms. While your body and your eyes have a built-in defense system to protect against these menacing microbes, contact lenses interfere with your eye’s protection. Consequently, swimming with contact lenses increases your risk of getting an eye infection.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is an extremely hazardous eye infection caused by amoeba being trapped between your contact lens and your cornea. Sometimes, amoeba start to live in your eye, leading to corneal ulcers and permanent vision loss. This type of infection only happens to people who wear contact lenses, which underscores our Longview eye doctor’s warning against swimming with contacts!

Now, we also realize that many people will insist on wearing contact lenses at the beach or pool – despite all of our warnings. If you’re one of those people, here are some tips to help you minimize the danger to your eye health:

  • Wear daily disposable contacts for swimming, since you throw them out after a single use. Remove them immediately after you come out of the water, rinse your eyes with artificial tears and replace your lenses with a new, clean pair.
  • Even if you’re didn’t fully dip into the water, if any drops fall into your eyes, remove your contacts immediately and throw them out, or disinfect them if you aren’t wearing disposables.
  • Never open your eyes underwater
  • Never go swimming and then doze off on the shore or poolside with your lenses still in your eyes

Top features for goggles – recommended by our Longview optometrist

  • Prescription lenses, if you generally need eyewear with vision correction
  • Shatterproof lenses
  • Anti-fog treatment
  • Leak-free lenses that seal comfortably around your eyes
  • Built-in UV protection
  • Surfers should wear polarized lenses to protect against reflected glare, which can be very intense on the water
  • Competitive swimmers and divers should choose frames with a low profile
  • Recreational lap swimmers do best with larger lenses (they give wider peripheral vision), and more padded frames

More questions about swimming and vision? Ask our Longview eye doctor!

Before you dive into the blue, sparkling waters at the beach or swimming pool, consult with an expert optometrist near you. We’ll help you find the safest way to have sharp underwater vision and a fabulous look! If you do experience irritated eyes, strange discharge, pain, sensitivity or redness after wearing your contact lenses while swimming, contact us immediately for an eye exam at August Wallace Eyecare Associates.