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Are Floaters and Flashes Dangerous?

You’ve likely experienced occasional visual “floaters” or flashes 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 Plano, Texas

If you suddenly, or with increasing frequency, experience flashes or floaters, call Switalski Eye Care and schedule an eye exam with Dr. Switalski right away to rule out any serious eye conditions.

What Causes Floaters?

The vitreous in the eye is a clear gel that fills most of the eyeball and resembles raw egg-white. Within the 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 Switalski Eye Care in Plano at 972-424-2019 with any further questions, or to schedule an eye doctor’s appointment.

My Eyelid Hurts, Do I Have a Stye?

Emergency Eye Care Services Near You in Plano

First of all, don’t panic! Styes may cause pain, yet they are generally harmless and very rarely have any effects on your vision or eyeball. In addition, they’re pretty common. Most people experience at least one or two styes at some point during their life, and these irritating bumps tend to recur. If you have swelling, tenderness and red-hot pain near the edge of your eyelid, don’t wait for your annual eye exam to get it checked.

What is a Stye?

A stye is a small lump either on the inside or outside of your eyelid. Most of the time a stye is visible on the surface, yet sometimes they can occur deep inside the eyelid. What’s inside this lump? It is a pus-filled abscess, generally due to an eye infection by staphylococcus bacteria.

All Styes are Not the Same

When a stye is located on the outside of your eyelid, it begins as a small spot next to an eyelash. Over the next few days, it will develop into a red and painful swelling. Typically, the stye will then burst and heal. Fortunately, the whole experience begins and ends relatively fast.

An internal stye, which is located on the underside of your eyelid, also leads to a red and painful swelling. However, the hidden location prevents the stye from creating a whitehead. Instead, it will disappear slowly once the infection is past, or a small cyst filled with fluid may remain. If that happens, your Plano eye doctor may need to open and drain the cyst.

Cause of Styes

Many types of friendly bacteria live and breed on the surface of your skin, all of the time. Yet, when the conditions are right, some of these bacteria – such as the staphylococcal bacteria – feast on dead skin cells and other debris. As a result, a stye can develop. The process is similar to the way in which pimples appear.

In addition, a chronic facial condition called rosacea may be the root of your stye problem. Visit your eye doctor or dermatologist to diagnose rosacea and prescribe the best medical treatment.

Signs that You Need Emergency Eye Care

Extreme symptoms of inflammation and pain are typical reasons that patients call our Plano, eye doctor for urgent care. However, even if you experience only mild irritation and swelling of your eyelid, you need to consult with an eye doctor if it doesn’t go away within a few weeks.

We advise you to seek medical advice for the following:

  • Eyelid swelling that interferes with your vision
  • Inflammation that doesn’t disappear within a week or two
  • Pain in your eye
  • Recurrent styes; these can indicate a chronic skin problem

Treatment for Styes in Plano

Fortunately, most styes will improve and heal on their own within a few weeks. Never try to pop or squeeze a stye! It’s important to let them rupture and release the pus on their own. With regard to self-care, our eye doctor recommends that you apply warm compresses to your closed eyes for about 10 minutes, four times a day for a few days. The mild heat will relieve your pain and swelling as it also encourages the style to come to a head. As soon as you see the white head appear, continue applying warm compresses to promote bursting.

Sometimes, medical treatment is necessary and only a qualified eye doctor can evaluate your condition fully. If your style was caused by an infected eyelash follicle, we may need to remove the lash closest to the stye. Other times, the pus may need to be drained. After this procedure, the eyelid heals rapidly.

Is there a way to prevent styes?

If you find that your styes recur frequently, it’s a sign that you need to improve your eyelid hygiene. Start using lid scrubs to remove excess cellular debris and germs. Follow these steps:

  1. Add a few drops of mild baby shampoo into a cup filled with warm water. Stir well.
  2. Dip a cotton wool ball into the mixture and gently rub the soapy solution along the baseline of your eyelashes. Keep your eyelids closed while you do this.

We also recommend that you take care not to dry your face on dirty towels, rub your eyes with dirty hands, or use old and/or shared cosmetics.

Many of our Plano patients tell us that they felt pinpoint tenderness near a few eyelashes before the stye appeared. If you experience this, you may be able to prevent the stye from forming by applying warm compresses frequently. Being proactive in this way can help you avoid further blockage of the eyelid glands.

Remember, while styes can be very painful – they do not typically pose any hazard to your vision. If you have symptoms of a stye, our eye doctor will provide emergency eye care to help alleviate the pain and promote healing.

At Switalski Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 972-424-2019 or book an appointment online to see one of our Plano eye doctors.

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