Flashes & Floaters

Flashes & Floaters

What is happening?

The vitreous is a transparent gel substance filling the back of the eyeball. With age and time, the vitreous gel shrinks, collapses and separates itself from the retina (Posterior Vitreous Detachment).  This is a normal event occurring in most people.  As it collapse, it forms little condensations which you will perceive as Floaters. These floaters may take any size & shape and change in character with time.  They are particularly obvious with a bright background such as blue sky, brightly lit book or VDU screen. Sometimes the floaters may become so big that they appear like a Veil.  Because the vitreous now becomes free to move inside the eyeball, the floaters and veils may shift in and out of vision.

Symptoms

  • Flashing Lights
  • Floaters
  • Haze & Veils

You may also be aware of Flashing Lights, like flickers in the periphery of your vision.  This occurs when the vitreous is still stuck onto the retina.  During its movement, it irritates the retina at these points producing the flashes.  Eventually, these flashing lights will disappear when the vitreous separates completely from the retina.

What is the treatment?

No treatment is usually necessary as eventually the brain gets used to the floaters and they do not become obvious all the time. Only in very rare circumstances as the vitreous form large dense blocks that obstructs vision. Only then treatment may be necessary. The Flashing Lights do eventually disappear.

Risks!

The process of vitreous degeneration and collapse in itself is not serious. However, occasionally, there may be strong attachment points between the vitreous and the retina. During its collapse, it can pull hard enough on the retina to cause a Retinal Tear. Bleeding from the edge of the tear may also contribute to the Floaters. Once a tear forms, it may then proceed to produce Detachment of the Retina which is separation of the retina from the back of the eye. This is a serious condition and can affect vision permanently. While the retinal tear can be easily treated with Laser as an outpatient procedure, the Retinal Detachment requires urgent complex surgery.

What do you need to do!

For this reason, any person developing sudden symptoms of flashing lights and floaters require thorough examination by a “Retina Trained Specialist” within few days to exclude a retinal tear/detachment. If the floaters have been present for more than 6 months, then no action is required as the retina would appear to have survived the stress of the detaching vitreous without causing any problems.

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“When you notice something clearly and see it vividly, it then becomes sacred.”   Allen Ginsberg