What are floaters?
Floaters are small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision, and may be more prominent as you look at a blank wall or a clear blue sky. Most people experience some floaters but do not notice them until they become numerous or more prominent.
What causes floaters and flashes?
As annoying as they may be, in most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process. Floaters look like cobwebs, squiggly lines or floating bugs, and appear to be in front of the eye, but are actually floating inside. As we get older, the vitreous (the clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye) tends to shrink slightly and detach from the retina, the light-sensitive nerve layer lining the back of the eye.
The appearance of flashing lights comes from the traction of the vitreous gel on the retina at the time of vitreous separation. Flashes look like twinkles or lightning streaks. You may have experienced the same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars.”
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How are they treated?
Unfortunately, there are no oral or eye drop medications that can remove or reduce the common type of eye floaters. Surgery to remove floaters involves removing the vitreous inside your eye (this procedure is called a vitrectomy) and involves multiple incisions in the eye. This surgery is done only in situations where there is a large amount of non-clearing blood or inflammatory debris within the eye and should not be performed in patients with common floaters.
Floaters can get in the way of clear vision, often when reading. Try looking up and then down to move the floaters out of the way. While some floaters may remain, many of them will fade over time.
Should I seek medical assistance?
Floaters and flashes are sometimes associated with retinal tears. When the vitreous shrinks it can pull on the retina and a cause a tear. A torn retina is a serious problem. It can lead to a retinal detachment and blindness. If you notice any sudden change in your floaters, see new, large, or showers of floaters, call your doctor. Also if you see sudden flashes of light or other symptoms, such as loss of side vision, consult your ophthalmologist right away.