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


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 ...


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.


UKNow (press release)

Floaters Are Common as We Age but May Signal a More Serious Eye Problem
UKNow (press release)
The vitreous gel liquefies with age, causing condensations within the gel, which become the floaters that we see. Eventually the vitreous gel separates free from the retina forming a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). This happens to most people at ...

and more »

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 ...


Healio

Young woman reports blurry vision in one eye, spots, floaters
Healio
Diffuse pinpoint hyper-reflectivity could also be seen in the vitreous on OCT as well, due to vitreal inflammation. The OCT scan taken over the optic nerve showed optic nerve head swelling. No abnormalities were seen with OCT imaging of the right ...


Bel Marra Health

Eye floaters – causes, symptoms, and treatment
Bel Marra Health
Eye floaters usually appear when a piece of debris floats in the vitreous humor, the transparent jellylike substance filling the eyeball behind the lens. This is commonly associated with the aging processes, so eye floaters are mainly seen in those ...


Which Eye Doctors Use Lasers to Treat Floaters?
Eye Doc News
Clearly we've come a long way since my first articles about the use of lasers to treat vitreous floaters, written six years ago (in late 2010). These articles remain the most widely read pieces on my blog (and elicited many questions on this site). In ...


Bel Marra Health

Light flashes in the eye: Causes, symptoms, and treatment
Bel Marra Health
About one-quarter of people has some vitreous shrinkage, developing floaters by their 60s. This percentage rises to about two-thirds in 80-year-olds. Floaters can also be appreciated in those who have had previous eye surgery, or eye injuries, and in ...


Trinidad & Tobago Express

Vitreous haemorrhage
Trinidad & Tobago Express
It occurs when the vitreous pulls away from the retina at the back. This can happen quite suddenly as the vitreous tends to shrink with age. Often there are mild symptoms of a few floaters and one may see flashing lights when in dark environments ...


Medscape

FDA OKs Ranibizumab for All Forms of Diabetic Retinopathy
Medscape
Conjunctival hemorrhage, eye pain, vitreous floaters, and increased intraocular pressure are the most adverse events for ranibizumab, according to the drug's FDA-approved label. More serious adverse events include endophthalmitis and retinal detachment.

and more »

News-Medical.net

Symptoms and Causes of Vitreous Detachment
News-Medical.net
Posterior vitreous detachment itself is typically benign. However, there are some symptoms which may occur in such a case. These usually herald retinal detachment but before the actual event. One is the occurrence of a new shower of floaters. Also ...

and more »

Healio

Improvements in instruments, sterilization and anesthesia set stage for office-based vitreoretinal surgeries
Healio
Remarkable advances in vitreoretinal surgery have occurred in the past 20 years. Diversified and miniaturized instruments have been produced, surgical time has dropped, and most procedures are done under local anesthesia, all of which have made ...


Bel Marra Health

Getting rid of eye floaters: Home remedies and exercise
Bel Marra Health
Getting rid of eye floaters: Home remedies and exercise Eye floaters are spots moving through your field of vision. They may appear black or grey, stringy or cobweb-like, they may move, drift, or dart when you move your eyes. Many eye floaters are ...


YAG laser vitreolysis vs. pars plana vitrectomy for vitreous floaters
Healio
Vitreous floaters remain frustrating to many patients. Not only may these be visually debilitating, but also there are few effective treatment options available. In general, patients are forced to “live with it.” This month, Karl G. Stonecipher, MD ...


News-Medical.net

Vitreous Detachment
News-Medical.net
This is also called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), and is initiated at the posterior pole of the eye. When it is not hindered in any way, the patient notices only that more floaters have appeared in the field of vision. These are tiny black ...


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 ...


PR Web (press release)

HS-UK Enjoy a Successful 2017 RCO Annual Congress
PR Web (press release)
The laser includes four treatment modes; SLT for glaucoma, laser vitreolysis for floaters and capsulotomy and iridotomy treatments. Boasting the fastest firing rate in the industry, the system offers a proprietary slit lamp illumination tower design ...

and more »

Today.com

From pain to floaters: 5 eye symptoms you should never ignore
Today.com
A PVD is a process of aging (generally after age 50 for most of us and younger if you are near-sighted) in which the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills your eye and is attached to the retina, begins to shrink and pull away from the retina. It ...


Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

See floaters like these? Could be fine — or serious
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Floaters appear as drifting dark specks, spots, threads or cobwebs. They appear when tiny clumps of gel or cells break down inside the clear, jelly-like fluid (called vitreous) in the back of the eye. The debris actually casts shadows on the retina ...


Healio

YAG photoablation effective first-line treatment for vitreous opacities
Healio
Vitreous floaters alone do not threaten eye health. Once a serious condition such as a retinal tear or detachment is ruled out by dilated fundus examination, optometrists commonly take a “live with it” approach to management. In fact, many ...


Experience with a novel Nd:YAG laser
ModernMedicine
The Nd:YAG laser plays a key part in ophthalmology. However, it is important to select a device that enables the best treatment results using lower energy and fewer shots. Modern cataract surgery can provide good visual outcomes for most patients ...


Floaters & Flashes: Cause for Concern?
University of Utah Health Care
These vitreous clumps cast shadows on the retina, the layer of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. This common cause of floaters is technically called a “posterior vitreous detachment,” and is more common in people ...


Retinal Detachment Sidelines Vikings Coach
University of Utah Health Care
When Minnesota Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer was recently sidelined with a retinal detachment, the sports world was suddenly abuzz with eye news. Zimmer had surgery to remedy his condition and had to sit out a few games, which wasn't great for his team or ...


Should You Worry About Eye Floaters?
ConsumerReports.org
Usually, eye floaters are nothing more than bits of debris that are left over from age-related shrinkage of the vitreous—the jelly-like fluid inside the eyeball. They become more common as the vitreous ages. Once you have them, eye floaters never ...

and more »

Healio

Nanosecond YAG laser effectively treats vitreous floaters
Healio
LONDON – At the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons meeting here, Marie-Jose Tassignon, MD, discusses a nanosecond YAG laser treatment for vitreous floaters. Tassignon describes three types of floaters: Category 1 are characterized ...


Daily Mail

When 'seeing snow' means your eyes are in trouble: From hallucinations to floating halos, experts reveal the hidden ...
Daily Mail
But a sudden influx of new floaters in the vision, especially if accompanied by flashes of light can be a sign of posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). This occurs when the gel in the eye becomes more watery, normally as a result of ageing; the gel ...


WABI

Healthy Living: Retinal Vein Occlusion
WABI
Floaters http://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/floaters-flashes in your vision are another symptom of CRVO. When retinal blood vessels are not working properly, the retina grows new, fragile vessels that can bleed into the vitreous, the fluid that ...

and more »

News-Medical.net

Retinal Break
News-Medical.net
Floaters are small black specks or streaks that appear in the field of vision and dart about with eye movements. They are actually shadows cast upon the retina by organized blood, coarse intravitreal fibers or cell clumps within the vitreous and are of ...

and more »

New York Times (blog)

Ask Well: Floaters in the Eye
New York Times (blog)
Floaters are caused by clumping of the vitreous humor, the gel-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye. Normally, the vitreous gel is anchored to the back of the eye. But as you age, it tends to thin out and may shrink and pull away from the inside ...


Harvard Health Publications (blog)

What you can do about floaters and flashes in the eye
Harvard Health Publications (blog)
The vitreous slowly shrinks with age, causing it to become a bit stringy. The strands cast shadows on the retina, causing floaters. About one-quarter of people have some vitreous shrinkage with floaters by their 60s; that rises to about two-thirds of ...

» Load more

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.