Floaters & Flashes

WHAT ARE FLOATERS?

You may sometimes see small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. They are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky.

Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous -- the clear jellylike fluid that fills the inside of your eye.

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. It is a common cause of floaters.

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common for people who:

  • Are nearsighted;
  • Have undergone cataract operations;
  • Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye;
  • Have had inflammation inside the eye.

WHAT CAUSES FLASHING LIGHTS?

When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen "stars."

The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, it is more common to experience flashes. If you notice the sudden appearance of light flashes, you should visit your ophthalmologist immediately to see if the retina has been torn.

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