What are Flashes and Floaters?

Flashes and floaters are visual disturbances usually caused by age-related changes to the vitreous, the gel-like substance inside the eye that is firmly attached to the back lining of the eye (retina).  During the aging process, the gel shrinks and can pull away at some points from the back of the eye causing separation. This is referred to as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Tissue debris that was once secure, loosens and moves around casting shadows (floaters) and creating tractional pull (flashes) on the retina.

What causes Flashes and Floaters?

Beyond simple aging, flashes and floaters can also be the result of:

  • Retinal tear or detachment
  • Head or eye injury
  • Cataract or other ocular surgeries
  • Highly near-sighted patients
  • Spasms of small blood vessels (ocular migraine)

Typically, vitreous detachments are common as we age and do not require any treatment other than observation.  All patients who experience new flashes/floaters or notice a change in their symptoms, are considered an emergency and should be seen immediately to rule out other causes including a tear in the retina or a retinal detachment which could be sight threatening.

Treatment of Flashes and Floaters

Although most cases of flashes and floaters are harmless and do not require treatment other than regular monitoring, some cases may require surgical intervention.

Depending on the case and severity, surgical intervention may include removing the vitreous and replacing it with an artificial gel as well as laser or surgical repair of the retina to prevent additional complications and maintain healthy vision.

Questions? Call 513-530-0440