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Trying to ignore those dark floaters or flashes of light that seem to dance right in front of your eyeball? Hoping they will just go away?

According to the American Optometric Association, that attitude can lead to serious vision loss. Of course, floaters and flashes can be part of the eye's natural aging process. More ominously, though, they can presage a sight-threatening condition such as diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment.

Only an optometrist can make that diagnosis. He or she will advise if you need immediate treatment to preserve your eyesight -- or have a harmless condition that you will have to live with.

Some floaters are merely debris left from the formation of the eyes before birth and trapped in the jellylike fluid that fills the eyes. Flashes can occur when that fluid, called vitreous, shrinks and pulls on the retina.

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