Please Review our COVID-19 Update

Floaters and Flashers

Overview

Floaters are small specks or clouds which move into your field of vision. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a wall or blue sky. Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. While these objects look like they are 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.

Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision. Some people compare them to seeing “stars” after being hit on the head. You might see flashes on and off for weeks, or even months. Flashes happen when the vitreous rubs or pulls on your retina. As people age, it is common to see flashes occasionally.

Symptoms

  • Spots in your vision that appear as dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material.
  • Spots that move when you move your eyes, so when you try to look at them, they move quickly out of your visual field.
  • Spots that are most noticeable when you look at a plain bright background, such as a blue sky or a white wall.
  • Spots that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision.

Causes

As we grow older, it is more common to experience floaters and flashes. When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to 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.

Floaters and flashes are also caused by posterior vitreous detachment, where the vitreous gel pulls away from the back of the eye. This condition is more common in people who:

  • Are nearsighted
  • Have undergone cataract operations
  • Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • Have had inflammation (swelling) inside the eye.
  • Have had an injury to the eye

Diagnosis

Your ophthalmologist will conduct a full eye exam which includes dilation to view your retina.

Treatment

Floaters may be a symptom of a tear in the retina, which is a serious problem. If a retinal tear is not treated, the retina may detach from the back of the eye. The only treatment for a detached retina is surgery.

Some floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome, requiring no treatment. Surgery to remove floaters is almost never required. Vitamin therapy will not cause floaters to disappear.

Source: 
Mayo Clinic