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When Do Visual Floaters and Flashes Call for an Emergency Eye Care Visit?

When Do Visual Floaters and Flashes Call for an Emergency Eye Care Visit?

Eye trauma, eye pain, and sudden loss of vision all require emergency eye care, but those aren’t the only reasons you might benefit from an emergency eye care visit. Floaters and flashes might require emergency eye care even if they don’t hurt or cause physical discomfort.

So how do you know if your floaters or flashes warrant an emergency visit to Maryland Eye Care Center? Below, our experts take a closer look at visual floaters and flashes and when you might need emergency care for them.

About visual floaters and flashes

The eye contains a gel-like substance called vitreous, which is responsible for the round shape of your eyes. Strands of this gel can clump together and cast shadows on your retina. 

You might notice these shadows as dark spots that float across your field of vision. They may look like dots, webs, or strings. They’re particularly noticeable when you look at a white wall or a clear blue sky. 

Floaters don’t hurt or cause discomfort and aren’t all dangerous. Risk factors for floaters include age, diabetes, nearsightedness, ocular trauma, and a history of cataract surgery. Floaters sometimes are accompanied by flashes of light.

However, you might experience flashes of light unrelated to eye problems. Flashes unrelated to eye issues, called visual aura, are common symptoms of migraines. 

Visual aura often precedes the headache part of a migraine by 5-60 minutes and can be described as flashes of light, wiggly lines, or other visual disturbances. If you experience flashes without a headache, they’re likely not part of a migraine attack.

When do visual floaters and flashes require emergency care?

Most floaters are harmless, and the flashes associated with migraines are harmless too. However, visual floaters and flashes can indicate an emergency. 

Our team can detect floaters with a dilated eye exam, but you shouldn’t wait until your next exam if you experience any of the following symptoms:

In these cases, the sudden appearance of floaters and flashes could signal a vitreous hemorrhage or a tear in your retina. Treatment depends on the cause of your floaters, but if a retinal tear is detected, surgery could preserve your vision.

According to the American Society of Retina Specialists, treatment, including laser surgery, can often save your vision if the retinal tear is treated before full detachment.

We offer emergency eye care

Because the sudden onset of floaters could be related to a serious condition such as a retinal tear, it’s best to seek an evaluation from our team as quickly as possible. 

Call one of our three locations in Silver Spring and Hyattsville, Maryland, if you experience these symptoms with changes in your vision. Our team performs a comprehensive exam and inspects your retina for signs of damage.

After hours, don’t hesitate to go to the nearest emergency room if you have serious eye concerns.

If you’re concerned about eye floaters and/or flashes of light, call Maryland Eye Care Center today or book your appointment online.

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