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

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Women's Health

5 Weird Eye Issues You Should Never Ignore
Women's Health
In the back chamber of the eyeball, there's a part of the eye called the vitreous body, and it has the consistency of an egg white. As you age and that jelly becomes more liquid, it develops floaters, which often look like cobwebs or specks in your ...


Leitrim Observer

Taking care of your eyes - What are floaters?
Leitrim Observer
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. Most eye surgeons are reluctant to recommend this ...


Medscape

Are These Ocular Symptoms Common or Concerning?
Medscape
Floaters are extremely common and are usually secondary to age-related changes in the consistency of the vitreous. Flashes, on the other hand, may indicate a more serious etiology, because vitreoretinal traction is often responsible for the perception ...


Retinal detachment and tears: the correct procedure to ensure early diagnosis and treatment
Lexology
When this happens, it may detach from the retina, which is often a harmless condition known as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). A PVD can cause a patient to experience symptoms such as flashing and floaters, which are caused by the vitreous ...


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 ...


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 »

BLOG: Evidence supports use of YAG for floaters
Healio (blog)
Much controversy has surrounded the subject of the use of YAG lasers to treat vitreous floaters. The dogma in our specialty has been that floaters are a mere annoyance that most patients will adapt to and that they don't cause visual disability. It's ...


YAG laser for treatment of floaters still in pioneer stage
Healio
I continue to perform YAG laser vitreolysis and have treated some patients with vitreous floaters and vitreous opacities. I have restricted my treatments to pseudophakic eyes with anterior vitreous opacities. I am impressed that many have improvement ...

and more »

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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Treatment Market Future Demand, Market Analysis & Outlook to 2026
faircolumnist.com
However, medications such as intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF drugs and corticosteroids lead to an instant increase in intraocular pressure, which may lead to severe adverse effects such as conjunctival haemorrhage, eye pain, cataract, vitreous ...


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 »

Detikcom (Siaran Pers)

Sering Melihat Bintik Putih 'Mengambang' di Mata? Ini Alasannya
Detikcom (Siaran Pers)
"Kebanyakan floater timbul karena usia, disebabkan oleh substansi mirip jeli bernama vitreous yang berada dalam mata menjadi lebih cair. Serat mikroskopik dalam vitreous cenderung menggumpal dan dapat membentuk bayangan kecil di retina. Bayangan ...


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 ...


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 »

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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 »

Man presents with blurry vision, flashes, floaters and redness
Healio
Left eye had persistent central vitreous floaters. Fundus examination of the left eye showed no optic nerve edema or pallor and a 5 mm by 9 mm chorioretinal scar nasal to the optic nerve. There was stable sheathing of nasal arterioles with arteriolar ...


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 ...


Reader's Digest

Those Random Spots in Your Vision Are Eye Floaters—Here's What to Do About Them
Reader's Digest
Floaters appear when the vitreous, the gel-like substance that gives your eye its round shape, shrinks and forms clumps or strands. So what you're seeing is actually the shadow of those clumps on your retina. Almost everyone experiences eye floaters ...

and more »

HealthDay

Laser treatment reduces eye floaters
Science Daily
Floaters become more prevalent with age and although most patients grow accustomed to them, many find them bothersome, and they can worsen visual quality. Three management options exist for floaters: patient education and observation; surgery; and the ...
Laser Therapy Shows Promise Against Eye 'Floaters'HealthDay
Can Lasers Blast Away Those Weird Squiggles at the Corners of Your Vision?Gizmodo

all 5 news articles »

Free Malaysia Today

Are eye floaters a dangerous medical condition?
Free Malaysia Today
Bleeding into the eye: Damage or injury to the countless blood vessels that supply blood to the eye can cause bleeding into the vitreous humour, and result in the formation of floaters. • Retinal tears: The retina is the layer in the eye that receives ...


Real-World Assessment of Dexamethasone Intravitreal Implant in DME: Findings of the Prospective, Multicenter ...
Healio
The most common AEs were ocular and included increased IOP, conjunctival hemorrhage, vitreous floaters, dry eye, ocular hypertension, and posterior capsule opacification (Table 4). Fourteen serious AEs occurred in 10 patients; the only serious AEs ...


Greenfield Daily Reporter

Drifting eye 'floater' gnat a serious problem
Greenfield Daily Reporter
I googled the term “floaters” and was surprised to see how many websites were devoted to this issue. It said the problem had something to do with a part of the eye called the vitreous humor. I also could use a vitreous sarcasm and a vitreous ...

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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.