Persistent floaters, flashes in eye may be sign of tear: study

Researchers are warning that people who see sudden, persistent “floaters” or flashes of light in their vision could have a serious eye condition that could lead to blindness if left untreated.

TORONTO — Researchers are warning that people who see sudden, persistent “floaters” or flashes of light in their vision could have a serious eye condition that could lead to blindness if left untreated.

A study led by eye specialist Dr. Sanjay Sharma of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., found that one in seven patients with either floaters or light flashes has a retinal tear that could lead to detachment.

Sharma says that if a doctor detects a retinal tear, it can be repaired by laser treatment before developing into a potentially vision-destroying detachment. He says many people experience floaters in dim light or while staring at a white surface and they soon disappear.

But the sudden onset of dots or cobweb-like floaters that don’t go away or flashes in the eye like fireworks could mean a retinal tear or detachment — especially in older people.

Sharma says anyone with such symptoms needs to seek immediate medical treatment.

The study from Queen’s is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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