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Dr. Rick
Dr. Rick, Board Certified MD
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 7819
Experience:  Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest
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Nine hours ago I noticed flashes of white light as a small

Resolved Question:

Nine hours ago I noticed flashes of white light as a small arc in the periphery of vision in my left eye. I thought I was seeing light thru the edge of my glasses. A while later, I noticed a large floater in my left eye. When I scan right to left with my eyes, I can see the thin arc of light. At one point I put refresh artifical tears in my eyes...thought I had dry eye and for a few minutes the floater was not as pronounced. It was only after it got dark that I noticed the while slice of light was originating in my brain (vision) and not from an outside source. When I looked on line to research floaters, I saw the information re: white light and became concerned. It's 9pm on a Sunday night in New Mexico; I don't think I'll get expert medical care. How do you think I could proceed?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Eye
Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.

Dr. Rick :

Hi. I'm online and happy to answer your question today.

Dr. Rick :

I am a retina specialist and can help you tonight.

Dr. Rick :

Are you available to chat?

Customer:

Yes.

Dr. Rick :

You are likely experiencing a PVD or posterior vitreous detachment, a common event that happens in many people.

You have a thick gel material in the middle of your eyes called the vitreous. Over time as it liquefies, this gel material collapses on itself, forms little clumps that you can see as dots, lines or bugs. As these clumps form the vitreous pulls away from the wall of the eye. In the process it can stimulate the retina -- causing the flashes that you may see.

It is recommended that you see your ophthalmologist to look at the retina to make sure there are no problems such as a retinal hole or tear. In most cases, there are no problems, but this exam is precautionary and allows for preventative treatment of any lesions that are found.

If you notice a sudden increase in floaters, flashes of light (like a lightning storm), or a shadow/veil in the periphery of your vision, this can be worrisome for a retinal detachment. You would need to contact your ophthalmologist promptly in that case.


 

Dr. Rick :

As long as you are not having the symptoms of a retinal detachment as reviewed in paragraph 3 above you should be OK to see an ophthalmologist in the near future. Of course, tomorrow would be best.....

Dr. Rick :

Does this make sense to you?

Customer:

I am noticing just the slice of white light (not unlike a flash blub) when I turn my head side to side. What do you think that means?

Dr. Rick :

That is the jelly pulling on your retina. Any time the retina is stimulated it thinks it is seeing light.....it knows nothing else. This is why your brain tells you that you are seeing light flashes when, if fact, you are "seeing" your retina being pulled on.

Dr. Rick :

pulling on your retina is a bad thing.....that being said, the vast majority of PVDs do not cause any damage to the retina at all.

Dr. Rick :

What can you do about the floaters? Well, floaters don't go away, and they don't really get worse. Over time they tend to "sink" out of your central vision and you brain "filters" them out so you don't notice them so much anymore. They almost never cause significant visual problems except, of course, if they cause a secondary retinal detachment as discussed above. The only way to decrease or remove the floaters is with a major surgery called a vitrectomy. As a retinal specialist for almost 2 decades I've only done this procedure to remove floaters in a handful of cases.


 

Customer:

I only have one floater as a result of this occurence; it starts out round and then morphs into a more flat sphere (like an infinity sign?)

Customer:

Also, is it ok to sleep flat? Is it better to keep my head elevated?

Dr. Rick :

That could be just the jelly clumping up as it shrinks, or you may have torn a small hole in your retina and had some bleeding. That is why it is important for you to see an ophthalmologist for a complete exam.

Dr. Rick :

At this point you can safely sleep any way you normally do. From what you are telling me I am not concerned that you have a retina detachment in progress.

Dr. Rick :

And that is what I do all day...well, not all day. I do spend time with my wife, eat, watch movies...... :o)

Customer:

The floater, now that I look at it more closely, looks like a "tear drop" shape with some shadowing.

Dr. Rick :

That could be either the vitreous clumps or blood. If it was from bleeding I would expect you to have more then one floater...ie: more then one drop of blood inside your eye. I bet you will be OK

Customer:

I haven't been to the eye Dr. in three years and actually only have the non-MD type eye doctor. I gues that is the place to start tomorrow morning.

Dr. Rick :

I would not waste your time with an optometrist. You really need to see an MD eye doc. If you call, and tell them your symptoms they will get your right in.

Customer:

Will I have the transcript of this chat? I'd like to re-read.

Dr. Rick :

Yes. Depending on your browser, you can right click and then print, or you can right click, select all, copy then open up your word processor program, hit paste then print from there.

Dr. Rick :

Feel free to ask me any new questions that come to mind as you think about what we have discussed here tonight.

Dr. Rick :

And, now, the obligatory word from our sponsors: :o)


I hope that this information was helpful for you. Please, allow me get credit for my time and effort in assisting you and press the ACCEPT button for this assist. I will be glad to answer additional questions until you are satisfied. Thank you very much.

Positive Feedback and/or Bonus is welcomed and appreciated.


 

Dr. Rick :

Does seeing an ophthalmologist tomorrow make sense to you? Does the plan for your not to worry tonight sound like a good idea?

Customer:

Hi Doctor Rick, I appreciate your expertise. I feel a little less nervous.

Dr. Rick :

That is my goal :o)

Dr. Rick :

Trust me. You will be OK.

Customer:

Can I access this whole answer? Where?

Dr. Rick :

yes. It should be on your page on just answer. You can open and access even after you hit that pretty green button on your page :). Or, if you wanted to save it on your computer forever, do the cut/paste into your word processor program (Microsoft word etc) and save it to your hard drive from there.

Dr. Rick :

Or, worst case, if you for some weird reason have problems, just send me a note and I can bring it up.

Dr. Rick :

Do you want to try that while I stand by?

Customer:

Thank you! Did you answer this question...do I need to sleep slightly elevated? You can tell, I'm anxious about this event! Thank you. I'm slow without my glasses.

Dr. Rick :

No you do not. Just sleep like you normally do.

Customer:

And...again, I appreciate your willingness to go into detail. Thanks so much. I will hit the accept button and if there is a place to give positive feedback...I can do better tomorrow.

Dr. Rick, Board Certified MD
Category: Eye
Satisfied Customers: 7819
Experience: Ophthalmology since 1994 with Retina sub-specialty interest
Dr. Rick and 2 other Eye Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Hi, Dr. Rick:Feedback for you...thank you for taking focused care in listening to my concerns Sunday night. You helped me stay grounded and I was able to rest a few hours.

Went to an Ophthalmologist Monday afternoon. As you suspected, I, thankfully did not have a tear in my retina or blood. I was much relieved to know my eyes and optic nerve looked good. Dr. was an experienced Ophthalmologist, though not a Retina specialist. The doctor told me if I continued to have or had another episode of flashing white light, to call or go to office as soon as possible.

I've a question which I'll pose to the doctor tomorrow and if you think it helpful, please I'd take your opinion, as well .Could the following symptoms be a result of dilation? I've experienced constant burning eyes, a pressure headache behind my eyes and just last night, again, white light to the side of left eye and for the first time also a small circle of light in the other eye. The pressure in my head was like the one time I had high blood pressure. I took an aleve in the middle of the night and eventually fell back to sleep. White light has not been an issue most of today.

In addition to thinking that I was still reacting to the dilation and testing process, I wondered what role inflammation played in the original problem. Also, my glasses I caused eye strain (prescription is old and i've continued to use the glasses because they were very expensive high definition lens (plus the lens AR has crazes from the time a year ago when optometrist assistant put the plastic frame in heat..thus contributing to eye strain.) As soon as my floater and eyes return to health, I'm getting new glasses.

Thanks again for helping me Sunday evening. I look forward to my eyes feeling good again and I'm already adapting to the floaters. Just wish I could do something about the burning sensation.
Expert:  Dr. Rick replied 3 years ago.
Glad to hear that everything worked out and you don't have any retinal involvement as we thought. Let me address your comments in order:

I do not believe that your issues are related to the dilation or exam, with the exception of the burning in your eyes. The dilating drops can sometimes cause irritation. In this case I would use artificial tears to soothe your eyes.

Inflammation can cause a PVD and floaters however, in your case, I do not believe this was a factor. Inflammation in the vitreous cavity would have been obvious during your eye exam.

Eye strain from old glasses, likewise, did not have any affect on this issue....but new glasses, and better vision, sounds like a good idea :o)

Glad I could help you get some sleep the other night. Take care and have a great day.

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