Floaters and Flashes
Floaters are small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. They are actually tiny clumps of cells or material inside the vitreous. Vitreous is the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye.
While these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside it. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina, the layer of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. Floaters can appear as different shapes, such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.
When the vitreous gel pulls on the retina, you may see flashes of light. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen "stars." The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months.
It is more common to experience floaters and flashes as we get older. The vitreous gel may start to shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters. It is more common in people who:
• Have had an injury to the eye.
• Have undergone cataract surgery.
• Have had a YAG laser procedure on the eye.
• Have had inflammation inside the eye.
• Are nearsighted.
The sudden appearance of floaters and flashes may be alarming. To find out if a retinal tear or detachment is occurring, you should call to schedule an appointment right away if you notice the following symptoms, especially if you are over 45 years of age or have had an injury to your head or eyes:
A sudden increase in size and number of floaters
A sudden appearance of flashes
Having a shadow or curtain appear in the periphery (side) of your field of vision
Seeing a gray curtain moving across your field of vision
Having a sudden decrease in your vision