Floaters and Flashes in the Eye
What are floaters?
Floaters are small specks or clouds that appear to float in the field of vision. Floaters are due to small clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid inside of the eye. Floaters cast shadows on the retina that can be bothersome to your vision. Floaters can be different shapes: dots, circles, lines, cobwebs and clouds.
What causes floaters?
People of all ages can experience floaters, but they are more common with increasing age. When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel starts to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The gel pulls away from the back of the eye causing a posterior vitreous detachment, which is a common cause of floaters. Vitreous detachment is more common in persons who are nearsighted, have had ocular inflammation or have had ocular trauma, surgery or laser.
Are floaters ever serious?
The retina can tear as the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from it. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding that may appear as a sudden onset of new floaters.
What causes flashing lights?
Flashing lights or lightning streaks are noticed when the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina. Flashing lights associated with new floaters may indicate a tear or detachment of the retina.
What should I do if I get flashes and floaters?
New onset flashes and floaters should be evaluated by an eye doctor as soon as possible to rule out retinal tear or detachment.
Will floaters and flashes go away?
Often floaters do not go away, but become less noticeable and less bothersome with time. Floaters can often be temporarily moved out of the way by looking up then down. Flashing lights usually diminish with time.