Flashes and Floaters

Floaters, sometimes called spots, are small, and semi-transparent or cloudy particles that float within the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inner portion of your eyes. Floaters are usually harmless and are seen by many of us at one time or another.

 

They generally look like translucent specks of various shapes and sizes or like cobwebs. They are frequently visible when you are looking at a plain-lighted background like a blank pastel wall, a blue sky or the white pages of a book.

 

Floaters become visible when they fall within the line of sight and cast a shadow on the retina (the light sensitive portion of the back of the eye).

 

There are a number of possible causes for floaters. They may be small flecks of protein or other matter that were trapped during the formation of your eyes before birth and remain suspended in the clear fluid of the vitreous.

 

Deterioration of the vitreous fluid may also cause floaters to develop. This can be part of the natural aging process and is often not serious, though it can be very annoying. Certain eye diseases or injuries can cause floaters.

 

Sometimes flashes or streaks of light may appear. This may be happening because the jelly-like vitreous is shrinking and pulling on the retina.  The retinal receptor cells are stimulated to “fire” by this tugging action and cause the perception of light flashes.

 

Vitreous shrinkage can continue and result in a part of the vitreous actually becoming detached or peeled away from the back of your eye. Flashes, floaters and vitreous detachment are common and only infrequently lead to serious eye problems.