Have you ever wondered why your eye care provider spends so much time carefully examining your eyes? Although they are looking for diseases or conditions that can affect your vision during eye exa ...View Article
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What is emmetropia?
A situation in the eye where light entering from a distance lands in focus on the retina, therefore people who are emmetropic require no eyeglass or contact lens prescription for seeing clearly at a distance.
What is astigmatism?
A condition in which the front surface of the cornea of the eye is not truly spherical. Although the eye is perfectly healthy, the corneal surface has discrepancies in the curvature, so that magnification in one direction is greater than in others.
A minor degree of astigmatism is normal and glasses are not necessary to correct it. More severe astigmatism causes blurring of lines set at a particular angle. A person with astigmatism might see horizontal lines clearly but vertical lines blurred, or the blurring may occur in an oblique meridian.
Ordinary "spherical" eyeglass lenses cannot correct astigmatism. Lenses are needed that specifically correct for astigmatism.
Hard or rigid contact lenses bridge over the anomalous corneal curve and present a perfect spherical surface for focusing; they give excellent vision in astigmatism. Ordinary soft lenses tend to mold to the astigmatic curve, resulting in limited correction for a person with astigmatism. Special "toric" soft lenses are available to treat astigmatism effectively.
What is hyperopia?
Commonly called farsightedness, an error of refraction that initially causes difficulty in seeing near objects and then affects distance vision. Hyperopia tends to run in families.
Hyperopia is caused by the eye being too short from front to back or the cornea being too flat, so that images are not clearly focused on the retina. Mild or moderate hyperopia in the young is overcome by accommodation (the action of the ciliary muscles to change the shape of the lens), which brings the point of focus forward to produce a clear image.
The error may be present from early childhood, but symptoms generally do not appear until later life. The more severe the hyperopia, the lower the age at which the problem appears. People with hyperopia experience varying degrees of difficulty viewing close objects because the power of accommodation declines with age. In time, distance objects are also blurred. Hyperopia may lead to eyestrain. Neither blurred images nor eyestrain permanently affects vision.
What is myopia?
An error of refraction in which near objects can be seen clearly while those in the distance appear blurred. Commonly known as nearsightedness, myopia is caused by the eye being too long from front to back or the cornea being too steep. As a result, the cornea focuses images of distant objects in front of the retina.
Myopia, which tends to be inherited, usually appears around puberty and increases progressively until the early 20's, when it stabilizes. Myopia that starts in early childhood often progress into adult life.
If myopia is detected during a vision test, glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery may be recommended to reduce the focusing power of the cornea.
What is presbyopia?
The progressive loss of the power of accommodation for near vision. The focusing power of the eyes weakens with age until, around 65, little or no focusing power remains. Presbyopia is usually noticed around the age of 45 when the eyes cannot accommodate within normal reading distance. Large print can still be seen, but small print may be impossible to focus on; newspapers may need to be read at arm's length.
Simple, reading glasses are used to correct presbyopia. They may need to be changed four to five times over the course of about 20 years, until eventually all the focusing is being done by the glasses.
What is laser vision correction?
- Laser vision correction is a term that refers to an ophthalmic procedure using the Excimer laser to alter the shape of the human cornea. The cornea of most people who wear glasses or contacts is not the appropriate shape to focus light onto the retina clearly. Laser vision correction changes the shape of the cornea, which now allows light to focus on the retina, hopefully eliminating or reducing the need for glasses and contact lenses. Give us a call to learn more about our educational forum and free consultations.
What's new with bifocal contact lenses?
With advancements in technology today, patients who are over 40 and need a prescription for near vision now have an effective alternative. Bifocal contact lenses offered at Premier Vision can lessen or eliminate an individual's need for bothersome eye glasses.
I have astigmatism, can I wear contacts?
- Many people think they are not good candidates for contact lenses because of their astigmatism. That is simply not true. Today advancements in contact lens technology allow patients with virtually any amount of astigmatism to wear rigid as well as soft contact lenses. Give us a call for more information on contact lens alternatives.
What is a retinal tear or detachment?
If the retina of the eye suffers a "break" or tear in its normally continuous structure, the eye is at risk for a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is simply a peeling away of the retina from its normal position of being attached to the back of the eye. Many times a tear on the retina allows fluid to seep under the retina, lifting it up until it detaches.
There are many causes for the above condition, including trauma, nearsightedness, and even as a result of other ocular surgical procedures. The speed in which the detachment or break is repaired usually determines the prognosis of the individual situation.
The symptoms to look out for are flashes of light, red or pink in your vision, a curtain or veil- like loss of vision, and an excessive number of floating objects in vision.
My blood pressure is high. Will I get hypertensive retinopathy?
For individuals who have had long-standing high blood pressure or blood pressure that has been "out of control" for a period of time, hypertensive retinopathy can result. Simply stated, hypertensive retinopathy occurs when the high blood pressure condition starts to effect the retina of the eye. Most commonly the effects are retinal hemorrhaging or bleeding (inside the eye), as vascular changes occur in the retina. If left untreated, the condition does threaten sight. Usually keeping the person's blood pressure under control goes a long way toward improving this ocular condition. However, some cases require treatment directly to the eye's retina with a laser.
What exactly is a stye (external hordeolum)?
An external hordeolum is an infection of an eyelash gland in the eyelid. Usually the area is inflamed, hot to the touch, and red. The best treatment for this condition is to apply wet hot compresses to the area on a fairly frequent basis (2-4 times per day). Most external hordeolum take several days to two weeks to go away. Prescription drops and ointments may be used to treat this condition. If for some reason the condition persists, it may be necessary to perform a procedure to treat the infected area by removing the accumulated infectious matter.
I sit at a computer all day long. Will this hurt my eyes?
With the infiltration of computers into the work place, a new visual problem has arisen. Due to the nature of video monitors and working environments that are not poorly designed for computer use, the computer operator can experience a variety of symptoms related to computer stress.
To gain relief from computer stress syndrome, try to decrease the "work load" on the visual system. This can be accomplished by using prescription eyewear, visual exercises and changing your working environment.
What is borderline eye pressure?
The human eyeball is a closed chamber and inside the eye there exists a "natural" pressure. The average range of pressure inside the human eye is 10–23 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Borderline pressure relates to a pressure reading that is at the high end of that range. One single eye pressure reading is no cause for alarm; however, it does raise some concerns and it is very important to monitor eye pressure from this point forward on a regular basis. It may also be necessary to have some auxiliary testing done to further complete the diagnostic picture.
What is asymmetric optic nerve cupping?
Imagine the optic nerves of your eyes to be analogous to a cable coming to a television set. The optic nerve is the black coaxial cable, the television would represent your eye. The silver coaxial connection which affixes the cable to the television would be your optic nerve head.
Inside the optic nerve head, the axons of the retina collect to travel down the optic nerve. That area of concentrated axons forms a cup on the optic nerve head. In most of us, the cup of the right and left eye are the same size. In some individuals, the cupping can be asymmetrical (or out of balance) when comparing the right and left eyes.
A concern arises when there is a greater than 10% difference in cupping between the eyes. If this has always been the case (you were born this way), then this is not something to be alarmed about. However, if this condition has been recently acquired, then there is reason for concern. The only way to be sure is to look at past retinal photography of the optic cupping or to monitor for further change from this point forward.
What is dry-eye syndrome?
If your eyes produce an unusually small amount of tears or tears of abnormal quality, you may have dry-eye syndrome, a condition which can lead to damage of the outer layer of the eye. Your eyes may feel dry, gritty and irritated, and you may experience a foreign body sensation, itching, sensitivity to bright light (photophobia) and mattering (debris accumulated on the eyelids).
In most cases, the specific cause of dry-eye syndrome is not known. The condition is very common and is found in people of all ages. It affects women more than men. Three of the most common causes of dry-eye syndrome include:
How can I control the effects of dry-eye syndrome?
If you wear contact lenses, excessive wear and the preservatives in contact lens solutions can irritate the surface of your eyes. We will advise you on the wearing schedule and solutions that are best for you based on the condition of your eyes.
You can keep your eyes comfortable by using ophthalmic lubricating solutions called artificial tears. It is best to use artificial tears that contain no preservatives. If you use these drops more than four times per day, preservatives can often cause further irritation. We will help you choose the products that are best for you.
Exposure to wind and Colorado's low humidity can aggravate dry eyes. Increasing moisture indoors with the use of a humidifier and wearing glasses with wraparound frames while outdoors will help protect your eyes from irritation.
Most often, the underlying causes of dry-eye syndrome cannot be completely cured. By using the techniques described above, the symptoms can usually be relieved, reducing the risk of further eye damage.
What is a corneal transplant?
The cornea is the transparent outer surface at the front of your eye (like the crystal on your watch). Injury, disease, infection or genetic changes can cause the cornea to become cloudy, distorted or scarred. This can severely reduce vision and may cause blindness.
Replacing a damaged cornea is the only effective treatment in most instances. Approximately 20,000 corneal transplants are performed each year in the United States. Corneal replacement is the most successful of all tissue transplants. This outpatient procedure involves transfer of the clear, central portion of the donor eye to the patient's eye. All tissue is carefully tested beforehand to prevent transmission of disease.
Initial healing after the operation occurs quickly, with most patients able to resume activities within days. However, the return of the best vision possible takes much longer. Depending on your ability to heal, and the overall health of your eye, vision restoration may take as long as one year. While the incidence of rejection is low, it is possible that your eye may reject the donated corneal tissue at any time after the operation. When rejection occurs, vision begins to fail and the eye becomes reddened. If this occurs, you should visit our office at once, regardless of the length of time that has elapsed since your operation. Early treatment can save the graph and vision.
What exactly is the procedure called fluorescein angiography?
Fluorescein angiography is a diagnostic procedure used to evaluate the health and function of the blood vessels in the retina at the back of your eye. This test allows your eye doctor to determine the presence and extent of damage to the eye from various disease processes, such as diabetes.
During fluorescein angiography, a dye is injected into a vein in your arm. This water-soluble dye travels to your heart, where it is pumped into the arteries which circulate throughout your body. As the dye passes through the blood vessels of the retina at the back of your eye, a special camera takes a series of photographs of the retina. If these blood vessels are not normal, dye will leak into the surrounding tissues. Damage to the lining underneath the retina or the presence of any abnormal blood vessels will also be revealed. By careful examination of the angiography pictures, your doctor can identify the exact location of problems and more accurately direct treatment to those areas. This dye is not like that used by radiologist—there are no x-rays.
After the dye is injected, some patients feel a slight sensation of nausea, which usually passes in a matter of seconds. Your skin may turn a yellowish color for several hours until the dye is filtered from your bloodstream by your kidneys. This sometimes lasts as long as 24 hours following the test.
If the dye leaks out of a blood vessel into your skin during the injection, some burning and yellow staining of the skin at the site of the leak may occur. The burning sensation usually lasts for only a few minutes, and the staining slowly goes away over several days.
As with any dye that is injected into your body, a rare allergic reaction may occur. If this happens, you may experience a skin rash and itching. This can be treated with an antihistamine, which is given orally or as an injection, depending on the severity of your symptoms. It is important to tell us of any medication or dye allergies of which you are aware.
This diagnostic test is especially useful in patients with diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or other retinal problems. Vision may become blurry when fluid accumulates inside the retina or when abnormal blood vessels rupture and bleed into the eye. Pictures taken during fluorescein angiography can show your doctor the exact areas that may need to be treated with the laser to prevent a further loss of vision.
I have glaucoma and am worried about losing my sight.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 40 years of age and affects at least one out of every 35 Americans. However, almost all blindness due to glaucoma can be prevented. Glaucoma is not an infection, and it is not contagious. It is a condition in which pressure created by the fluid in one or both eyes builds up to an abnormally high level. When this pressure remains elevated over a period of time, nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve become compressed and can be damaged or destroyed. Left untreated, vision is impaired and ultimately, blindness can result. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes.
Because chronic glaucoma seldom causes symptoms, it is extremely important for you to have regular eye exams after the age of 40, even if you have no complaints about your vision. Many people are unaware of the disease during its early, treatable stages since there is usually no pain and central vision remains good for a long time.
Glaucoma, more than any other eye condition, needs to be detected early if treatment is to be successful. The best way to prevent loss of sight from glaucoma is to have a complete eye examination every two years if you are over the age of 35, and more frequently if you are black, have diabetes, have a high level of myopia, or have a family history of glaucoma. Glaucoma tends to run in families, and if either of your parents or any of your grandparents are affected, you have a higher than average chance of developing the disease.
Once glaucoma is diagnosed, loss of sight can be slowed or prevented with medicine or laser surgery. Rarely, incision surgery is needed. Any or all of these methods may be recommended to lower the pressure to a safe level.
Although successful treatment usually helps lessen further vision loss, sight already lost cannot be restored. Early diagnosis during a periodic medical eye examination is the key to preventing vision impairment from glaucoma.
What is blepharitis?
Blepharitis refers to a chronic inflammation of the eyelids. The eyelids are irritated, itchy, and occasionally the eye itself becomes red. This condition may begin in early childhood and continue throughout the patient's adult years, or it may appear for the first time when the patient is an adult.
There are two forms of blepharitis:
Blepharitis is usually a long-term condition, and requires strict hygiene habits. The following regimen should be followed:
Today there are also many packaged products that can be used to achieve the same effect as the above baby shampoo solution.
Treatment of an oily scalp for dandruff or other skin conditions may also be helpful in controlling symptoms.
Antibiotics or cortisone preparations may be prescribed to help control the condition. Please follow the directions for use and duration of these medications. Be sure to ask questions if you do not understand how these are to be applied.
My daughter has conjunctivitis or "pink eye"; is it dangerous?
Conjunctivitis describes an inflammation of the outer lining of the eye. This condition is more commonly referred to as "red" or "pink" eye.
The white portion of the eye, the sclera, is covered by a thin membrane called the conjunctiva. This lining produces mucus to wash and lubricate the surface of the eye. The conjunctiva normally has very small, thin blood vessels within it, which are barely visible. However, when the conjunctiva is irritated, the blood vessels enlarge. They are much more prominent, giving the eye its red color.
The most common cause of conjunctivitis are infection, allergy, and external irritants. All of these conditions irritate and inflame the conjunctiva.
Infectious conjunctivitis can be caused by either bacteria or viruses. Regardless of the source, infectious conjunctivitis is very contagious. Frequent hand washing is important, and family members should avoid contact with the patient's tears. This includes avoiding contact with any handkerchiefs, tissues, or towels used by the patient.
Bacterial conjunctivitis typically causes an inflamed eye that drains a large amount of pus. However, if the infection is chronic, little or no discharge may be evident. The patient may only experience some crusting of the eyelid and lashes in the morning.
Viral conjunctivitis usually produces a red eye with watery discharge lasting from one to two weeks. Common symptoms, including a sore throat and runny nose, may also be present.
Conjunctivitis caused by an allergy also produces drainage from the eye. Some allergies, such as hay fever, produce the reddened eye along with significant itching. Other allergies result only in chronic redness of the eye.
External irritants, including smoke or fumes, can produce the red, inflamed eye similar to that produced by allergy or infection. Dryness of the eye will compound the irritation of conjunctivitis regardless of the source of the problem.
At Premier Vision, we suggest that you be evaluated by an eye doctor whenever red eyes occur. There are several eye diseases which produce reddened eyes and can easily be confused with conjunctivitis. However, these diseases can lead to more serious eye problems if not diagnosed and treated early. Further evaluation is especially important if you are experiencing pain, blurred vision or sensitivity to light in addition to the inflamed appearance of the eye. These symptoms do not usually occur with conjunctivitis, and may suggest an inflammation of the inner eye, an ulcer of the eye or glaucoma.
The treatment of conjunctivitis is directly related to the cause of your condition. If infection is suspected, antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed. Removal of the patient from the presence of irritation or allergy-producing stimulants may be required.
What is diabetic retinopathy?
Diabetes myelitis is a condition which impairs the body's ability to use and store sugar. Elevated blood sugar levels, excessive thirst with an increase in urine excretion, and changes in the body's blood vessels are all characteristic of the disease. Diabetes may cause serious changes in the eyes as well. Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, occasional blurring, and most importantly, changes in the blood vessels at the back of the eye all may affect sight.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes. It is caused by the deterioration of the blood vessels nourishing the retina at the back of the eye. These weakened blood vessels may leak fluid or blood, develop fragile brushlike branches, and become enlarged in certain places.
The retina is the part of the eye where light filtering through the lens is focused. The focused light or images are then carried to the brain by the optic nerve. When leaking blood or fluid damages the retina, the image sent to the brain becomes blurred.
The risk of developing diabetic retinopathy is high for people who have had diabetes for a long time. About 60% of those having diabetes for 15 years or more have some blood vessel damage in their eyes. When diabetes develops in childhood or teenage years, it is known as juvenile diabetes. Juvenile diabetics are particularly likely to develop diabetic retinopathy at an early age. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of new blindness among adults in the United States, and people with diabetes are said to be 25 times more prone to blindness than the general population.
The cause of diabetic retinopathy is not completely understood; however, it is known that diabetes weakens small blood vessels in various areas of the body. Pregnancy and high blood pressure may worsen this condition in people with diabetes.
Through gradual or rapid blurring of vision may occur, sight is unaffected in most patients with retinopathy, and gradual changes in the eye can go unnoticed unless detected by your eye doctor.
A comprehensive eye examination is the best protection against the progression of diabetic retinopathy. People with diabetes should be aware of the risks of developing sight disturbances and should have their eyes examined regularly.
To detect diabetic retinopathy, your Premier Vision doctor painlessly examines the interior of the eye using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. If diabetic retinopathy is noted, a second method of examination, called "Fluorescein Angiography" may be used by the doctor to see which blood vessels are bleeding or leaking fluid.
When diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, we consider your age, history, lifestyle, and the degree of damage to the retina before deciding whether treatment or monitoring of the disease is most appropriate. In most cases, treatment is recommended to halt the damage of diabetic retinopathy.
The argon laser has revolutionized retinopathy surgical care. By using high energy light waves, your ophthalmologist can use this laser to precisely stop bleeding of ruptured blood vessels in the retina caused by diabetes.
Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is the best protection against sight loss. Even when symptoms are not noticed, people with diabetes should schedule eye examinations at least once a year. Eye examinations should be scheduled more frequently after diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed. In most cases, with careful monitoring, we can begin treatment before sight is affected.
What is a posterior vitreous detachment?
There is a relatively large cavity between the crystalline lens and the retina of the eye. This space is occupied by a Jello-like substance called the vitreous. As we age, this Jello-like material liquefies and loses its shape due to the "tug" of gravity. As gravitational forces continue to "tug" on the vitreous, it could separate from its attachment to the retina. This can result in the patient experiencing flashes and/or floaters (cobweb or jellyfish-like images) in their vision.
Once a PVD has been diagnosed, quite often the accompanying eye can experience the same condition within six months.
A PVD is not a retinal detachment; however, in a small percentage of patients with PVD, a retinal break or detachment can occur.
If you notice any increased frequency in floaters or flashes appear or do not dissipate, call Premier Vision for a consultation.
My child has a "lazy eye" (amblyopia). Will it affect his vision?
Amblyopia is the technical term for a functional defect in the developmental process of the eye. It results in a loss or reduction of best corrected vision from the standard 20/20 line on the eye chart. There can be many reasons for the on-set of amblyopia. However, if caught early enough in a child, with the combination of a proper eyeglasses prescription and visual training (exercises for the eyes and the visual system), vision usually can be improved and sometimes returned to 20/20. Unfortunately for an adult with amblyopia, there is presently no treatment to improve their sight.
What is keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a condition of the cornea that is representative of progressive thinning or "coning". The usual onset is in the second or third decade of life. It is hereditary. It usually occurs to both eyes, however the condition tends to be more advanced in one eye versus the other.
The treatment in the early stages is usually glasses and soft contact lenses. As the condition progresses, the patient usually must switch to a more rigid contact, such as a rigid gas permeable (RGP) lens. Your Premier Vision doctor has shown you the progression of your individual case with corneal topography printouts (enclosed in the following pages). In the very advanced cases of keratoconus, corneal transplantation may be necessary.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
This condition is represented by an aging degeneration of the central part of the retina. The degeneration can result in all or some of the following changes in the central retina: edema, pigment disruption, yellow exudate deposits, new blood vessel growth, bleeding, and scaring.
A patient who has macular degeneration usually notes a decrease in the quality of their central vision. Parts of their central vision are distorted, blurred, or even missing. The peripheral vision usually stays unchanged through the years.
At present, there is limited treatment for ARMD. Although not "proven" to be effective, many eye care practitioners recommend the addition of supplemental dietary zinc. Your Premier Vision doctor will have spoken to you about zinc and, if it is appropriate in your case, he has given you a suggested amount to take each day.
In later stages, some ARMD cases can be treated with a laser.
Some patients may be required to have a fluorescein angiography performed.
What is iritis?
The term iritis literally translated means the inflammation ("itis") of the iris (the blue, brown, hazel, etc., colored part of the eye). However, in actuality, it can also be used to describe any inflammation in the front part of the eye.
It is important to note that iritis is an inflammatory condition and not an infectious one. Which means a patient with iritis is not contagious. It is very important to take the eye medication your doctor prescribes. Not doing so can threaten the health and vision of the eye. A patient with iritis usually is light sensitive and describes an eye that aches. The prescribed medication almost always relieves these symptoms over the course of a couple of days.
Will I get cataracts when I am older?
If we live long enough, each and everyone of us will develop some form of cataract. Cataracts are a yellowing or opacification of the crystalline lens inside our eyes.
The crystalline lens functions much like the lens of a 35mm camera. Depending on the distance the object is away from the eye, the lens must make an adjustment to keep that object in focus.
In its "normal" state, the lens of our eye is transparent. However, several things can affect its transparency, including such things as age, ultraviolet light, diabetes, trauma, and medications, to name a few.
In the early stages of yellowing or opacification, changes in one's eyeglass prescription can improve a patient's sight. However, over time, the density of the opacification becomes too great and the only way to restore vision is to surgically remove the crystalline lens. Phacoemulsification is the modern technique to accomplish this task. This procedure utilizes ultrasound to break up the cataract and suction it out of the eye. An interocular lens (IOL) is inserted in the eye to take the place of the natural lens that was removed. The patient can't feel it and it does not need to be cleaned.
It's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of all cataracts pose no health threat to the eye. Cataracts most likely will only limit vision for as long as they remain in the eye.
How will my allergies affect my eyes?
Ocular allergies are very common and one of the most frustrating conditions patients experience related to the eyes. Ocular allergies rarely pose a health risk to the eyes. They usually are classically associated with a mild to severe "itchy" symptom indicative of allergies.
A patient should view allergy treatment as an attempt to contain the allergy rather than to cure it. All of the treatment recommendations we suggest are to make the patient feel better and to keep the allergy response "in-check".
At Premier Vision we record a five-step approach to allergy treatment:
What is a chalazion?
A chalazion refers to the swelling and chronic inflammation of an oil gland of the eyelid. This swelling is due to trapped oil secretions within the gland. Typically, a gradual enlargement near the edge of the eyelid occurs. Occasionally, swelling of the entire eyelid may occur. A chalazion is not the same as a stye, which is an infection of an eyelash gland.
A chalazion may produce no symptoms and disappear without treatment. However, it usually remains, and as it enlarges toward the inside of the eyelid, the chalazion may cause blurred vision by exerting pressure and distorting the shape of the eye. In addition, infection may occur if bacteria are able to enter the gland.
There are several treatment methods for a chalazion. Antibiotic or steroid eye drops or injections may be used. Warm compresses and massage to express the secretions from the oil gland may also be recommended. The chalazion may have to be surgically removed or drained to promote healing. Once treated, chalazia tend to permanently disappear. However, some patients may develop chalazia on a recurrent basis. Should a chalazion repeatedly appear at the same place on the lid, a biopsy of the tissue may be necessary to determine that a more serious problem does not exist.
What are those little floaters and flashes I see in my vision?
Floaters are common. They are small "bug-like" interferences in vision which you may notice intermittently or on a constant basis. Floaters are caused by a jelly-like material, the vitreous humor, in the eye. A floater casts a shadow that you see. Due to the gel-like material inside the eye, these shadows can float and move around. Floaters are most noticeable when the pupil is at its smallest. Therefore, you may see them best looking at a bright background such as a white page or a bright sky.
Floaters in themselves do not threaten the eye's health. Since the vitreous humor interfaces with the retina, it is important that you see your eye doctor when you notice new floaters or an increase in the number of floaters or the increase in the frequency in which they see floaters in their vision.
Flashes of light often are associated with floaters, and they may represent possibly a more serious problem in the eye. Flashes of light can be caused by the tugging of the vitreous on the retina and therefore cause retinal breaks or tears. Flashes of light can also be caused by neurological problems which have nothing to do with the vitreous of the eye. One example is ophthalmic migraine. Flashes of light are a serious symptom and should be addressed by your eye doctor immediately.