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


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 ...


Harvard Health

What should you do about those unpleasant eye floaters?
Harvard Health
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 retina in the back of the eye, frees itself from ...


Center For Sight Introduces New Technology to Reduce Eye Floaters
Markets Insider
"Floaters are one of the most frequent complaints I have from patients. Before vitreolysis, the only treatment available was vitrectomy, which is the removal and replacement of the vitreous humor, the clear, jelly-like substance in the main chamber of ...

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 ...


Don't Ignore the Appearance of Eye Floaters
Digital Journal
As people age, these floaters have greater odds of showing up and they are associated with changes happening within the eye's gel-like substance called the vitreous, or vitreous humor. Generally, floaters pose no harm to patients but it is strongly ...


MedPage Today

Laser Treatment Appears to Reduce Eye Floater Symptoms
MedPage Today
Patients treated with YAG laser vitreolysis reported significantly improved symptoms related to eye floaters, according to research results published in JAMA Ophthalmology. The study, carried out by Chirag P. Shah, MD, and Jeffrey S. Heier, MD, of ...


Brookings Register

Holding the head perfectly still for two weeks
Brookings Register
Dad's first symptoms included floaters, quick flashes of bright light, and blurred vision starting in the peripheral part of his vision, gradually moving toward his central vision, like a gray veil falling across his line of sight. There was no pain ...


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 ...


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 ...


Pfizer Presents Overall Survival Data of XALKORI in Patients with ALK-Positive Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Business Wire (press release)
Vision Disorders: Most commonly visual impairment, photopsia, blurred vision or vitreous floaters, occurred in 63.1% of 1719 patients. The majority (95%) of these patients had Grade 1 visual adverse reactions. 0.8% of patients had Grade 3 and 0.2% had ...

and more »

Coffs Coast Advocate

Take on the Sunday Quiz
Coffs Coast Advocate
Beginning with "f", what is the term for a usually harmless speck suspended in the vitreous humour of the eye? 11. Who captained New South Wales in the 2017 State of Origin series? 12. ... (ex-FBI chief). 7.Arsenal. 8.Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa. 9 ...


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

Man presents with blurry vision, flashes, floaters and redness
Healio
Anterior vitreous was clear in the right eye, and there were 2+ anterior vitreous cells in the left eye with 2+ haze. Fundus examination of the right eye was within normal limits, while the left eye had a single discreet nasal patch of retinitis near ...


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 »

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. ... The vitreous in the right eye had 1+ anterior cells, 1+ central haze and 2+ ...


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 ...


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 can usually be ignored
Elko Daily Free Press
Floaters develop in the vitreous — the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the space between the lens at the front of the eye and the retina at the rear. It's composed mostly of water, with a small amount of collagen, other proteins, salts and sugars ...

and more »

CBS Philly

The Deal With 'Eye Floaters'
CBS Philly
The medical term is a “posterior vitreous detachment” and it occurs when the vitreous gel that fills the eye separates from the retina. When it happens, most patients experience symptoms like flashes or floaters. The onset of symptoms is usually around ...


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 ...


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 ...


ABC2 News

Annoying Eye Floaters Are More Helpful Than You Think
ABC2 News
If you look at a blank wall, you might see shadowy, stringy specks floating around the edge of your vision. Those annoying squiggles are eye floaters, and yes, we all get them. Floaters are part of the vitreous gel between the eye's lens and retina ...

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 ...


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 ...


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 »

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 ...


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 ...


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 »

News-Medical.net

Symptoms and Causes of Vitreous Detachment
News-Medical.net
A third characteristic but little-noted symptom of posterior vitreous detachment that has resulted in retinal detachment is the presence of a defect in the visual field. When a patient has a history of acute flashes of light or floaters, 14 out of 100 ...

and more »
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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.