Flashes and Floaters

Floaters and flashes are symptoms of the eye that commonly occur as a result of changes to the vitreous gel in the back of the eye. When we are born, the vitreous is firmly attached to the retina and is a thick, firm, jello-like substance. As we age, the vitreous becomes thinner and more watery, and tissue debris and fibers that were once secure in the firm gel can now move around inside the eye, casting shadows on the retina.

Flashes in vision occur as a result of tension from the vitreous gel on the retina in the back of the eye. This causes patients to see brief flashing lights or lightning streaks until the tension resolves. This can take anywhere from several days to a few months to resolve on its own. Floaters occur when fibers move across the vitreous and into your field of vision, causing patients to see specks, strands, webs or other shapes as the fibers cast shadows on the retina. These floaters may be dark or translucent.

dilated-eye-exam

These symptoms are most visible when looking at a plain, light background. Flashes and floaters often appear at the same time, although some patients may only experience one symptom.

Patients that develop new floaters or flashes should contact their eye doctor and set up an appointment for a dilated eye exam as soon as possible. Although rare, floaters and flashes are sometimes associated with bleeding inside the eye (vitreous hemorrhage) or retinal detachment.

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