Flashes and Floaters
What are floaters?
Sometimes you may see small specks or a cloud move in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, which is the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye.
Even though the specks seem to be in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside it. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina, the layer of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see.
Floaters can appear different to different people. They can be shapes such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs.
What causes floaters?
When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters.
Posterior vitreous detachment is more common in people who:
- are nearsighted;
- have undergone cataract operations;
- have had YAG laser surgery of the eye;
- have had inflammation inside the eye.
When floaters appear it may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. You should contact us right away if you develop new floaters.
Are floaters ever serious?
The retina may tear if the shrinking gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters.
A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment. You should see us as soon as possible if: even one new floater appears suddenly or you see sudden flashes of light.
Can floaters be removed?
Floaters can be harmless and fade as time goes by requiring no treatment or surgery to remove them.Even if you have had floaters for years, you should schedule an eye examination with your ophthalmologist if you suddenly notice new ones.
When the vitreous gel pulls on the retina, you may experience what looks like flashing lights or lightning.
The flashes can appear off and on for weeks or months. If you suddenly have the appearance of flashes, you should contact us immediately in case the retina has been torn.
Floaters and flashes become more common as we grow older. While not all floaters and flashes are serious, you should always have a medical eye examination by an ophthalmologist to make sure there has been no damage to your retina.