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Flashes of Light & Floaters
Floaters are small specks that move in and out of your field of vision. They may be more noticeable when looking at a plain background. Floaters are tiny clumps of strands, fibers or cells inside the vitreous gel (the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye) that pass in and out of your vision.  Floaters can give rise to countless indescribable shapes or patterns, but the underlying causes for these are the same in all individuals.

What causes floaters?

As we age, the vitreous gel in the eye starts to shrink and liquefy, which can cause clumps in the eye. The vitreous gel ultimately detaches itself from the back wall of the eye.  This is sometimes will cause the appearance of a new floater.  This is known as vitreous detachment and is a normal occurrence in life.  Rarely, it can lead to additional problems.

Floaters are more common in people who are nearsighted, or those who have had laser surgery of the eye.  People who have experienced inflammation inside the eye or individuals who have had cataract surgery are more likely to have floaters as well.

How serious are floaters?

If the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, a retinal tear can occur. This can cause severe vision loss if left untreated. Floaters can often appear suddenly. You should contact our office immediately if you notice new floaters, especially if you are older than 45.

Can floaters be removed?

Most floaters are harmless and will disappear over time and require no treatment. However, floaters may be a symptom of a retinal tear, which can lead to a detached retina if left untreated. The only treatment for a detached retina is surgery.

What causes flashing lights?

As the vitreous gel pulls on the retina, you may see "flashing lights" or lightning streaks. These flashes of lights can appear periodically for several weeks or months. It is more common to experience flashing lights as we grow older. If flashes of light begin suddenly, you should contact our office for an eye examination so we can be sure the retina has not been torn.

As we age, floaters and flashes of light become more common. Although not all floaters and flashes of light are serious, it is important to have a medical examination by an ophthalmologist to make sure there is no damage to the retina.

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