Floaters and Flashes In The Eyes

Floaters and Flashes In The Eyes

Floaters are opacities (commonly described as “fibers,” “specks,” or “cobwebs”) that move in your field of vision.  They are very common, and most people are most aware of them when looking at a plain background.  Floaters are clumps of cells within the vitreous, the gel-like substance inside your eye.  As floaters move inside your eye, they can cast a shadow on your retina, which is what you see.  As part of the aging process, the vitreous gel begins to collapse inside the eye.  If the vitreous pulls away from the retina, this is called a vitreous detachment.  This will typically cause a sudden increase in floaters.  You might also experience flashes of light, as the vitreous pulls on the retina.  These will tend to be intermittent over several weeks, and are often most noticeable in dim light.  As the vitreous detaches, there is a risk for retinal tears and retinal detachments.  These are serious problems that need to be treated as soon as possible.  You should seek evaluation by your eye care provider should you have an increase in floaters, flashes of light, or a veil/curtain in your vision.  While most floaters are harmless, the only way to distinguish normal floaters from those that are a sign of pathology is with a retinal examination.