Those seemingly harmless “floaters” and “flashers” in your vision can indicate serious trouble. “Floaters” are tiny black specks that you may occasionally see floating in your line of vision. “Flashers” are sparkles or spots of light visible in your side vision that can suddenly appear and disappear.
As you age, the gel-like fluid in your eyes (called vitreous) begins to liquefy and pull away from your retina -- the thin neurosensory tissue that lines the back of your eye. As your vitreous gel changes it can pull on your retina enough to cause a retinal tear or detachment. Like the film in a camera, your retina captures the images you see. When this film is irritated, distorted or torn, it changes your retina's ability to properly capture visual images and you begin experiencing vision problems.
Having a few long-standing floaters in your vision is normal. However, if you notice flashers or an increase in floaters -- or if you see a curtain or shaded area in your side vision -- these can indicate serious eye disease and the need for immediate treatment. Left untreated, retinal tears and detachments can lead to permanent blindness. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical. In fact, vision loss could have been prevented or minimized by early detection in 50% of all medical cases involving blindness.
Retinal tears, retinal detachments and other serious eye diseases that once meant certain vision loss can now be successfully treated, thanks to the many recent advances in laser and surgical technologies.
The first step to a solution is to see your local eye specialist, or ask your primary care physician for a referral to have a thorough eye examination performed through dilated pupils.