Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and Flashes- What are they?

Floaters are small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. They tend to be more obvious as you look at a blank wall or a clear blue sky. Most people have some floaters but are bothered by them to varying degrees.

In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process. Floaters can look like cobwebs, squiggly lines, floating bugs, or simply a blurry spot that moves. They 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, forming clumps within the eye. What you see are the shadows these clumps cast on the retina, the light-sensitive nerve layer lining the back of the eye.

The appearance of flashing lights comes from the pulling of the vitreous gel on the retina at the time of vitreous separation. Flashes look like twinkles or curved lightning streaks in the peripheral vision. They are most visible when the eye quickly moves left and right in a dark environment, and are usually more dangerous than floaters. Any time floaters or flashing lights occur for the first time, they may be a signal that a tear has occurred in the retina, and an urgent retinal exam is indicated.

A torn retina is a serious problem. It can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. If you are experiencing flashes and/or floaters for the first time, please contact our office for an eye exam as soon as possible.

Long-standing floaters can be very bothersome and can get in the way while reading or driving. Try looking up and then down to move the floaters out of the way. Your brain will oftentimes learn to ignore the floaters over the course of a few months. However, sometimes, this does not happen and the floaters remain prominent.

Can Anything be Done for Floaters that Are not Going Away?

If you have had an eye exam and been told that your retina is healthy, chances are the floaters are harmless, but can certainly be a nuisance and can affect the quality of your life.

Studies have shown that visually significant floaters can impair contrast sensitivity and explains why patients feel colors and images tend to be more vivid when they are cured of their floaters.

Vitrectomy surgery can permanently get rid of all of your floaters and is a quick, safe, outpatient procedure covered by most insurance companies. This surgery is done under local anesthesia at a surgery center and takes about 10 minutes to perform.

If you feel that you would benefit from this surgery or would like more information, please call our office (949) 951-2020 for an appointment.