Flashes and Floaters
What are floaters and flashes?
Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous (the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye). They appear to be small specks, dots, clouds, circles, strings, lines, shapes, or cobwebs that are suspended in mid-air.
Flashes are the visual sensation of flashing lights, lightning streaks, or "seeing stars".
What causes floaters and flashes in the vision?
With the approach of middle age, the vitreous gel may start to shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters.
Flashes occur when the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina.
What should I do if I get a new floater or see flashes?
An ophthalmologist should be consulted as soon as possible should there be a sudden appearance of even one new floater, sudden flashes of light, or loss of side vision. This is because the retina can tear when the shrinking vitreous gel begins to pull 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 retinal detachment.