Floaters and Flashes

Flashes and floaters are often a symptoms of posterior vitreous separation. Floaters are rarely visually significant and they can be removed surgically.

What is a Vitreous Separation?

Most of the eye's interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain a round shape. There are millions of fine fibers intertwined within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina, the eye's light-sensitive tissue. As we age, the vitreous slowly shrinks, and these fine fibers pull on the retinal surface. Usually the fibers break, allowing the vitreous to separate and shrink from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment. In most cases, a vitreous detachment is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.

As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina that you may notice as floaters, which appear as little "cobwebs" or specks that seem to float about in your field of vision. If you try to look at these shadows they appear to quickly dart out of the way. One symptom of a vitreous detachment is a small but sudden increase in the number of new floaters. This increase in floaters may be accompanied by flashes of light (lightning streaks) in your peripheral, or side, vision. In most cases, either you will not notice a vitreous detachment, or you will find it merely annoying because of the increase in floaters.

A vitreous detachment is a common condition that usually affects people over age 50, and is very common after age 80. People who are nearsighted are also at increased risk. Those who have a vitreous detachment in one eye are likely to have one in the other, although it may not happen until years later.

Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten sight, once in a while some of the vitreous fibers pull so hard on the retina that they create a macular hole or lead to a retinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated immediately. If left untreated, a macular hole or detached retina can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters or an increase in flashes of light in peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible. The only way to diagnose the cause of the problem is by a comprehensive dilated eye examination. If the vitreous detachment has led to a macular hole or detached retina, early treatment can help prevent loss of vision.

What are Floaters?

Floaters are little "cobwebs" or specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving.

In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process and simply an annoyance. They can be distracting at first, but eventually tend to "settle" at the bottom of the eye, becoming less bothersome. They usually settle below the line of sight and do not go away completely. Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them; they are usually not noticed until they become numerous or more prominent. Floaters can become apparent when looking at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky.

Are floaters an Emergency?

Floaters occur when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills about 80 percent of the eye, slowly shrinks. As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina. These are floaters.

Floaters are more likely to develop as we age and are more common in people who are very nearsighted, have diabetes, or who have had a cataract operation. There are other, more serious causes of floaters, including infection, inflammation (uveitis), hemorrhaging, retinal tears, and injury to the eye.

Sometimes a section of the vitreous pulls the fine fibers away from the retina all at once, rather than gradually, causing many new floaters to appear suddenly. This is called a vitreous detachment, which in most cases is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment. However, a sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by light flashes or peripheral (side) vision loss, could indicate a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment occurs when any part of the retina, the eye's light-sensitive tissue, is lifted or pulled from its normal position at the back wall of the eye. A retinal detachment is a serious condition and should always be considered an emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent visual impairment within two or three days or even blindness in the eye. Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters, flashes of light in peripheral vision, or a loss of peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible.

For people who have floaters that are simply annoying, no treatment is recommended. On rare occasions, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they significantly affect vision. In these cases, a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that removes floaters from the vitreous, may be needed. A vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel, along with its floating debris, from the eye. The vitreous is replaced with a salt solution. Because the vitreous is mostly water, you will not notice any change between the salt solution and the original vitreous. This operation carries significant risks to sight because of possible complications, which include retinal detachment, retinal tears, and cataract. Most eye surgeons are reluctant to recommend this surgery unless the floaters seriously interfere with vision.

Vitreous Floaters NEWS

Below are current articles from a Google News Feed on Vitreous Floaters

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BLOG: Evidence supports use of YAG for floaters
Healio (blog)
We all know patients in our practices who complain bitterly about floaters causing disability. Why have we ignored them until now? Impact on ADLs is the reason we do cataract surgery. Why wouldn't the same criterion prompt us to treat vitreous floaters?


Journal Inquirer

Eye not on the ball: A cautionary tale
Journal Inquirer
Lesson: Get to an ophthalmologist immediately if you have any of the following symptoms: seeing “stars” or flashing lights; suddenly many new floaters (small clumps of cells inside the vitreous that look like specks, strings, or objects moving around ...


Seeing 'worms' everywhere? It's OK. It's all just in your eye
Star2.com
It's a description I've heard many times in my practice – worms, spiders, flies – and they usually indicate the same problem: floaters. Floaters typically appear when tiny pieces of the eye's gel-like vitreous break loose within the inner back portion ...


Free Malaysia Today

Are eye floaters a dangerous medical condition?
Free Malaysia Today
Although the presence of grey and black specks, spots, strings or cobwebs is annoying, it causes no pain and is generally nothing to worry about. Most cases of eye floaters are age-related changes occurring in the vitreous humour, a gel-like substance ...


Johnson & Johnson Vision Highlights New Data at 2018 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Annual ...
PR Newswire (press release)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. and SANTA ANA, Calif., April 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Johnson & Johnson Vision, a broad-based global leader in vision, today announced that a suite of new research from its eye health portfolio will be presented at the 2018 ...


The Dominion Post

Seeing floaters? Make an appointment with your eye doc ASAP
The Dominion Post
Essentially, our eyes contain a clear jelly called “vitreous,” acting as a shock absorber for trauma to the eye. As the years roll by, this jelly becomes more watery, as tiny fibers separate and often clump together to become big enough to be seen ...


New Novartis Phase III data for brolucizumab demonstrate reliability of 12-week treatment interval
PR Newswire (press release)
... respectively, in HAWK were reduced visual acuity (8.7%, 6.9% and 8.9%), conjunctival hemorrhage (8.4%, 6.4% and 5.6%), vitreous floaters (6.7%, 5.0% and 3.1%) and eye pain (5.9%, 4.4% and 4.2%)4. The incidences of these events for brolucizumab 6 ...

and more »

Traverse City Record Eagle

Floating a new treatment: Laser for vitreous floaters
Traverse City Record Eagle
Floaters form when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills a majority of the eye and helps maintain its shape, shrinks, and parts of it form strands that cast tiny shadows on the retina, the institute's website states. Hanley said nearly everyone ...


Worldwide Ophthalmic Lasers Market Forecasts to 2025 by Manufacturers, Region, Type and Application
Exclusive Reportage
Through this Topcon debuted in therapeutic laser market In June 2016, Ellex Medical Lasers Limited got approval from China FDA for lasers devices which are used in the treatment of glaucoma, vitreous floaters and secondary cataract. Ellex Medical ...


Ocular Sarcoidosis
Sarcoidosis News
Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect one or more organs and tissues throughout the body. It is characterized by clumps of inflammatory immune cells, called granulomas, that accumulate within affected tissues and organs. This ...


Medscape

YAG Laser Treats Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters
Medscape
YAG laser vitreolysis effectively treated symptomatic vitreous floaters, according to a report published in the September issue of JAMA Ophthalmology. Posterior vitreous detachment occurs in 65% of patients aged 65 years or older. It may be associated ...
BLOG: It's time to laser the vitreousHealio (blog)

all 2 news articles »

Novartis announces positive data from phase III HAWK and HARRIER trials of brolucizumab in neovascular age ...
pharmabiz.com
The most frequent ocular adverse events (greater than 5% of patients in any treatment arm) were reduced visual acuity, conjunctival hemorrhage, vitreous floaters and eye pain. The most frequent non-ocular adverse events were typical of those reported ...


Vitrectomy Systems Market to Witness a Pronounce Growth During 2017 – 2025
satPRnews (press release)
By indications, the global vitrectomy systems has been segmented into Retinal detachment, macular pucker, diabetic retinopathy, macular holes, vitreous hemorrhage, vitreous floaters and others. By end users, the global vitrectomy systems has been ...

and more »

Healio

Technological advances improve safety, precision of YAG vitreolysis for floaters
Healio
An upgrade in YAG laser technology may be a breakthrough in the management of vitreous floaters, offering a safe, effective and minimally invasive alternative that lies between “learn to live with it” and vitrectomy. YAG laser vitreolysis has been ...

and more »

Fish Oil May Be a Natural Alternative for Eye Floaters
Newswire
While it is not a cause of alarm to see a few floaters from time to time, sufferers are advised to seek medical attention when a shower of floaters is accompanied by flashes of light. Symptoms such as these could mean that the vitreous is being pulled ...


Healio

YAG laser vitreolysis improves symptomatic vitreous floaters
Healio
YAG laser vitreolysis was associated with a better improvement in vitreous floater symptoms than a sham procedure, according to study findings. Researchers conducted a masked, sham-controlled, randomized clinical trial in 52 eyes of 52 patients. The ...


QNotes

'Floaters' affect elders' sight
QNotes
Floaters occur when the vitreous slowly shrinks over time. As the vitreous changes, it becomes stringy, and the strands can cast shadows on the retina. These strands are the floaters. They can look like specks, filaments, rings, dots, cobwebs or other ...


Retina Group of New York Sponsors Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Woodbury, NY Gala
Benzinga
When advanced, it can cause blurred vision, floaters or total visual loss, but don't wait until you notice problems with your vision. A dilated retina examination can detect diabetic retinopathy before vision loss ... While laser treatments at the ...


MedPage Today

Laser Treatment Appears to Reduce Eye Floater Symptoms
MedPage Today
A natural part of the aging process, posterior vitreous detachment occurs when the vitreous gel that fills the eye separates from the retina. Most patients experience the condition after the age of 60 with symptoms such as flashes or floaters. As ...


Healio

VIDEO: Studies show laser vitreolysis safe, effective at treating floaters
Healio
LISBON, Portugal ― At the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons meeting here, I. Paul Singh, MD, and Roxana Fulga, MD, discuss two separate studies they performed examining laser vitreolysis for the removal of symptomatic vitreous ...


The Conversation UK

The laser beam that can get rid of those pesky eye floaters
The Conversation UK
Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts used a yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG) laser to treat floaters in a small group of patients. Floaters can appear at any age but become more common after the age of 50. Most floaters are caused by changes in the ...


Annoyed by floating specks in your vision? You may soon be able to zap them away
Science Daily
They're part of a gel-like substance in the back of the eye called the vitreous. As you age, the vitreous slowly shrinks and forms opacities of varying size and shape. What you see isn't the floater itself, but the shadow it casts onto the retina ...

and more »

Harvard Health (blog)

Can we zap eye floaters away?
Harvard Health (blog)
It develops when the vitreous separates from the retina. A vitreous detachment doesn't hurt or require treatment unless it tears the retina in the process. In that case, you may see a sudden shower of floaters, flashing lights, or a curtain coming over ...


AsiaOne

Seeing Specks or Flashes of Light? Here's Why
AsiaOne
Floaters and flashes are only a matter of concern if the vitreous pulls on the retina and tears it. Subsequent bleeding may appear as an intense 'shower' of new floaters. If left untreated, a retinal tear can cause the retina to fully detach from the ...


MD Magazine

Laser Surgery for Eye Floaters, Specks Proves Safe
MD Magazine
In research presented at the 121st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO 2017) in New Orleans, LA, a laser procedure to remove large, symptomatic floaters from 680 patients resulted in complications in less than 1% of the patient ...
Laser Treatment Could Soon Zap the Floaters in Your EyesLaboratory Equipment

all 3 news articles »

Harvard Health

What should you do about those unpleasant eye floaters?
Harvard Health
Most floaters are small and don't bother vision much. But one kind — called a Weiss ring — is larger and ring-shaped. It can interfere more with vision than other floaters. This larger type of floater is caused when the vitreous, which normally hugs ...


El Paso Inc.

Eye floaters: How I almost went blind in one eye
El Paso Inc.
“Eye floaters can be clumpy or stringy, light or dark,” the All About Vision blurb at the top of a long list of websites said. “They are caused by clumps or specks of undissolved vitreous gel material floating in the dissolved gel-like fluid (vitreous ...

and more »

Healio

Top 10 retina articles of 2017
Healio
YAG laser vitreolysis improves symptomatic vitreous floaters. YAG laser vitreolysis was associated with a better improvement in vitreous floater symptoms than a sham procedure, according to study findings. Read more. 5. Novartis' RTH258 for wet AMD ...


News-Medical.net

Should You Seek Help for Eye Floaters?
News-Medical.net
Eye floaters are shadows of the cell strands that are present in the vitreous of the eye. Though many floaters do no harm, there are some conditions in which an individual should seek physician help as it could symbolize benign diseases. Some floaters ...


StarNewsOnline.com

5 things to know about floaters
StarNewsOnline.com
In the rare cases where floaters are so numerous that they affect vision, he can perform a surgical procedure on the vitreous. “It's generally a safe procedure, but there are always risks with surgeries.” He added that laser technology is being ...

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Floater Vitrectomy

65 year old woman with 7 years of visual problems from dense vitreous opacities. She noticed them after her cataract surgery and they were immediately behind the intraocular lens.



Floater Vitrectomy

70 year old man with significantly compromised visual function for 1.5 years from a vitreous opacity in his better 20/16 eye. Video shows 25 gauge vitrectomy in high definition. Over 99 percent of symptomatic vitreous floaters will improve without any treatment within 6 to 12 months. There are significant risks to surgery for vitreous floaters which have to be weighed against the benefits. Vitrectomy almost always causes a worsening of a cataract, but since this patient had already had cataract surgery that was not a concern.