Eye flashes may disappear on their own, but when they don’t go away, or they develop suddenly, don’t wait to contact Dr. Jeevan Mathura or Dr. Lindsay Smithen at Retina & Macular Disease Specialists. Frequent, numerous, or sudden eye flashes may be a sign that your retina is torn or detached. It's a severe eye condition that needs immediate attention to avoid permanent vision loss, so please call their office in Arlington, Virginia, to schedule an eye exam.
Eye flashes develop from two primary eye conditions:
Posterior vitreous detachment
The space between the eye’s lens and retina contains a vitreous gel that helps transmit light and exerts pressure to maintain the shape of your eye. Millions of fine fibers weave through the vitreous gel, then attach to the surface of the retina.
Over time, the vitreous gradually shrinks, making the fibers pull on the retina. When the fibers break, the vitreous separates from the retina, creating a condition called vitreous detachment. Vitreous detachment usually doesn’t impair vision, but it causes flashes and floaters.
Retinal tear or detachment
A torn or detached retina occurs when your retina separates from its underlying tissues. It's a grave eye condition because the retina can’t function when it’s detached.
Permanent vision loss develops without quick treatment to reattach the retina. Eye flashes that persist, become more frequent, or develop suddenly are potential signs of a detached retina.
Posterior vitreous detachment and injury to your eye or face often cause retinal detachment. People with high levels of nearsightedness are also at risk for this condition: Their longer eyeballs and thinner retinas make the retina more likely to detach.
Retinal detachment may be caused by eye disease or systemic disease, such as diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy may lead to the growth of abnormal vessels that leak blood or fluid, creating retinal swelling that causes a tear or detachment.
Your treatment depends on the underlying cause. Treatment for vitreous detachment usually isn’t necessary, as long as the flashes go away.
Surgery is the only treatment for a detached retina. Your doctor at Retina & Macular Disease Specialists can perform several procedures or can refer you to a vitreo-retinal surgeon:
Scleral buckling surgery
A small band of silicone or plastic is attached outside the eye to reduce pulling of the retina. The retina may be able to reattach on its own when the pressure diminishes. Your dedicated eye care provider can also conduct scleral buckling in conjunction with other surgical procedures.
A small bubble of gas is injected into the vitreous body to push the detached part of the retina back into place.