If you are seeing brief flashes of light followed by a floating dark spot in your vision, chances are you just experienced a vitreous detachment. These symptoms tend to be quite alarming because they are usually unlike anything you’ve seen before.

A posterior vitreous detachment is caused by part of the vitreous, a jelly-like substance in the back of the eye, becoming detached from the retina. It is a normal aging process and happens in over two-thirds of the population usually in the fifth to seventh decade of life. Strands of vitreous fibers are left floating in the vitreous cavity. The patient sees these as large floaters that can become quite annoying. Eventually, gravity should pull these floaters out of the viewing field. Of course, if the floating spot is large and reduces vision, surgery can remove the vitreous but this is the last resort. A relatively safer procedure is now available using a cold laser to remove the floater. However, this new technique may take several treatments.

A dilated eye exam by an optometrist is necessary to determine if the retina is still intact. Occasionally the posterior vitreous detachment will cause a break in the retina which would need to be repaired by an ophthalmologist. This may occur a few weeks after the initial event so repeated dilations are generally recommended.

If you have a question concerning your eyes, ask Dr. Picken directly by emailing him at prairie isioncenter@gmail.com.

Dr. Jace Picken is an optometrist at Prairie Vision Center in Wahpeton

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