Q. I get recurrent flashes in the right eye. At what point is this situation an emergency?

Answered by
Dr. Souhad
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Apr 26, 2020

Hi doctor,

I am a 63-year-old female. I started getting flashes in the right eye a couple of days ago, and now have a floater in the shape of the flashes. I was not too worried. But today flashes have started up again in the same area. Given the pandemic, eye doctors are only open for emergency care, and I really do not want to get exposed. At what point is this situation an emergency?

I am currently on estrogen patch, Sertraline, and Nexium.



Welcome to icliniq.com.

Flashes can signify many conditions affecting the inner layers of the eye starting with the vitreous (the gel structure pressing down the retina - in high myopes it is usually dissociated) where floaters are usually located. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, elements of blood can form in that space and start floating (floaters).

The way to detect if it is in the vitreous is to look sideways and if the floater follows the motion of the eye (slowly in the same direction) then it is in the vitreous and does not require quick intervention. If the distortion is in the same position in whatever direction you look then we are talking about the retina and retinal detachment which should be urgently excluded. If you are seeing a halo around the source of light then your eye pressure might be increased and requires urgent attention.

Thank you doctor,

The floaters definitely move with the eye. I am more concerned that the flashes have started back up, although right now they are intermittent. Should I be concerned or just monitor and not exercise for a few days?



Welcome back to icliniq.com.

Considering that the flashes are nonetheless persisting, I would refrain from any exercises (especially bending down) or carrying heavy stuff. I would also like you to compare the eyes (close one with your hand) and evaluate the vision in all directions and see whether you feel that some part of your visual field is not as adequate as the other eye (that would be effective and informative only if the eyes have the same refractive power). Otherwise, I would recommend that you get a comprehensive eye exam (not in an emergency room, especially with the spread of the virus).

I hope this helps.

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