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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AsiaOne

Seeing Specks or Flashes of Light? Here's Why
AsiaOne
As these cells float in the vitreous gel, they cast shadows on the retina, which is the light-sensing inner layer of the eye. When we move around, the currents in the vitreous move these cells about, causing us to see floaters. More rarely, these ...


Live Science

A Man's Eye Floater Was Actually a Tapeworm — Plus Thousands of ...
Live Science
A tapeworm in your gut sounds horrifying enough, but imagine having a tapeworm in your eye. That's what happened to a man in Florida who initially thought he saw something moving across his vision, only to discover he had tapeworm living in his eye ...
Exclusive: Brain-eating worm grows in Florida man's eyeABC Action News

all 11 news articles »

Greenfield Daily Reporter

Drifting eye 'floater' gnat a serious problem
Greenfield Daily Reporter
My wife noticed that I was continually swatting at flying bugs in the house. I told her that this one little black gnat had been bothering me for several days, but that every time I took a whack at it, it disappeared. “Those are not insects,” said Mary ...


FanSided

Modern Moves: Tony Parker's floater
FanSided
An undissolved bit of vitreous gel floating in the back of the eye is the medical definition for a floater. The gel casts shadows in a person's field of vision. These shapes are both present and absent. Tony Parker's floater is a similar blip ...


Medscape

YAG Laser Treats Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters
Medscape
Before treatment, patients had Weiss ring floaters resulting from posterior vitreous detachment documented with B-scan, optical coherence tomography, and clinical observation, for at least 6 months; reported symptoms as debilitating; and had Weiss ...
BLOG: It's time to laser the vitreousHealio (blog)

all 2 news articles »

Bel Marra Health

Branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) recovery: Causes, symptoms, and treatment
Bel Marra Health
Branch retinal vein occlusion symptoms go beyond vision loss. Some people notice what is commonly called floaters. These are really dark spots or lines in your vision. The floaters are clumps of blood leaking into the vitreous from retinal vessels ...


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 »

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 ...


News-Medical.net

Should You Seek Help for Eye Floaters?
News-Medical.net
As we grow old, the gel-like vitreous that maintains the shape of the eye gradually liquefies. Some of the gel-like particles float in the liquid consistency, the retina casts shadows of these shapes, and we come across floaters. Floaters are most ...


The Conversation UK

The laser beam that can get rid of those pesky eye floaters
The Conversation UK
Eye floaters – those little cobweb-like strings that randomly sail across your vision – can be successfully treated with a laser, according to a new study. Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts used a yttrium-aluminum-garnet (YAG) laser to treat ...


News-Medical.net

What Causes Eye Floaters?
News-Medical.net
Eye floaters (myodesopsias) emerge as a consequence of opacities developed in the vitreous fluid of the eye. The fibers in the vitreous create shadows on the retina and these shadows are called as floaters. Based on the size and shape of the fibers ...


Laser treatment reduces eye floaters
Science Daily
Three management options exist for floaters: patient education and observation; surgery; and the laser procedure, YAG vitreolysis, of which there are limited published studies on its effectiveness for treating floaters. Chirag P. Shah, M.D., M.P.H ...

and more »

Harvard Health

What should you do about those unpleasant eye floaters?
Harvard Health
As we age, the thick, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye — called the vitreous — starts to form dense "blobs." Some of this debris may wind up floating around and blocking some of the light coming into your eyes. Most floaters are ...


Medical Daily Times

Weiss Ring Floaters: What Are They and Is There a Cure for Them?
Medical Daily Times
Most of these visual disturbances come from detached free-floating tissue in the aqueous fluid in the eye, but in the case of the Weiss Ring, the visual disturbance is described as a smoky or very dark-colored thick ring, a round or oval shape – darker ...


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 ...


Healio

Man presents with blurry vision, flashes, floaters and redness
Healio
Uncorrected visual acuity was 20/25 in the right eye and 20/50 in the left eye. Both pupils were equally round and briskly reactive with no afferent pupillary defect. IOP, confrontational visual fields and extraocular movements were normal in both eyes ...


Harvard Health (blog)

Can we zap eye floaters away?
Harvard Health (blog)
Floaters are usually pieces of debris that come from the vitreous — a thick, jelly-like substance that fills the center of the eye. The vitreous attaches to the retina, which captures light and sends it to the brain via the optic nerve. As we age, the ...


Bel Marra Health

Vitreous hemorrhage: Causes, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and prognosis
Bel Marra Health
A vitreous hemorrhage may result directly from retinal tears or neovascularization (bleeding from newly formed blood vessel). This leads to blood leaking inside the eyeball, often resulting in the clouding of vitreous humor and vision impairment. This ...


MD Magazine

Laser Surgery for Eye Floaters, Specks Proves Safe
MD Magazine
The common complication for patients was intraocular pressure increase, which is generally treated with antihypertensive eye drop therapies. With a significantly low rate of complications, the procedure could be perceived especially beneficial for ...
Laser Treatment Could Soon Zap the Floaters in Your EyesLaboratory Equipment

all 3 news articles »

Posterior CCC paired with vitrectomy removes PCO, vitreous floaters
Healio
A posterior continuous curvilinear capsulorrhexis through the pars plana coupled with a 23-gauge vitrectomy successfully managed dense posterior capsule opacification and vitreous floaters with no complications, according to a 15-eye study. “The study ...


Healio

Young woman reports blurry vision in one eye, spots, floaters
Healio
There was vascular tortuosity, 1+ vitreous haze and pigment mottling of the retina. Diffusely scattered areas of serous retinal detachments were also present. Optical coherence tomography imaging was performed in areas overlying the macula and the ...


How to manage solar retinopathy caused by viewing the eclipse
Healio
Today, the U.S. is watching a total eclipse, and many may not be taking the necessary precautions for safe viewing. Jerome Sherman, OD, FAAO, provides tips on how to handle inquiries from patients who may be suffering from solar retinopathy. Sherman is ...


University of Utah Health Care

What to Do About Those Floaters in Your Eyes
University of Utah Health Care
Floaters are a big annoyance. I see a lot of patients who complain of floaters every day in my clinics. Generally speaking, what they are is they're condensations of a part of the eye called the vitreous. So the vitreous is a gel-like substance in the ...


Healio

PUBLICATION EXCLUSIVE: Man presents with blurry vision and floaters after cataract surgery
Healio
A 73-year-old Caucasian man was referred to the uveitis service at Tufts Medical Center for persistent iritis of the right eye associated with cloudy vision and floaters. He underwent uncomplicated cataract surgery of the right eye approximately 10 ...


Woman referred for blurry vision, flashes of light and floaters
Healio
Left eye fundoscopy demonstrated trace vitreous cell, mild hyperemia of the optic nerve head with blunting of the disc margins, an orange-yellow foveal granularity and numerous deep retinal circular yellowish-white lesions distributed throughout the ...


Eye Floaters: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
WebMD
Eye floaters appear as small spots that drift through your field of vision. They may stand out when you look at something bright, like white paper or a blue sky. They might annoy you, but they shouldn't interfere with your sight. If you have a large ...


MedPage Today

Is Syringe Lubricant Causing Floaters After Eye Injection?
MedPage Today
BOSTON -- Reports of silicone oil droplets causing complications in patients after treatment with an anti-VEGF agent rose significantly in 2016, a researcher here found. At one private retinal practice, incidence of silicone oil droplets -- which cause ...


Eye floaters can usually be ignored
Beatrice Daily Sun
Although people of any age can develop floaters, they do tend to be more common in adults 40 and over. That's because as we age, the vitreous gradually softens and shrinks. Portions of the collagen can become stringy, and the other proteins dissolved ...

and more »

YAG laser vitreolysis vs. pars plana vitrectomy for vitreous floaters
Healio
Welcome to another edition of CEDARS/ASPENS Debates. CEDARS/ASPENS is a joint society of cornea, cataract and refractive surgery specialists, here to discuss some of the latest hot topics in ophthalmology. Vitreous floaters remain frustrating to many ...

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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.