What Are Floaters?

The small specks, ‘bugs’ or clouds that you may sometimes see moving in your field of vision are called floaters.
They are frequently visible when looking at a plain background.
These visual phenomena have been described for centuries and Romans called them miscue volitantes or ‘flying flies’ since they can appear like small flies moving around in the air.
Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cellular debris within the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside cavity of the eye.
Although these objects appear to be in front of the eye, they are actually floating in the fluid inside the eye and cast shadows on the retina.
Moving your eyes back and forth and up and down creates currents within the vitreous capable of moving the floater outside your direct line of vision.

What Cause Floaters?

The vitreous gel degenerates in middle age, often forming microscopic clumps or strands within the eye.
Vitreous shrinkage or condensation is called posterior vitreous detachment, and is a common cause of floaters.
It also occurs frequently in nearsighted people or in those who have undergone cataract operations or YAG laser surgery.
Occasionally, floaters, result from inflammation within the eye or from crystal – like deposits, which form in the vitreous gel.
The appearance of floaters, whether in the form of little dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs, may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly.
However, they are usually nothing to be concerned about, and simply result from the normal ageing process.

Are Floaters Ever Serious?

The vitreous covers the retinal surface. Occasionally the retina is torn when degenerating vitreous get pulls away, causing a small amount of bleeding in the eye which may appear as a group of new floaters.
A torn retina can be serious if it develops into a retinal detachment.
Any sudden onset of floaters or flashes of light should be promptly evaluated by your ophthalmologist.
Additional symptoms, like loss of peripheral or side vision, require repeated ophthalmic examination.

What Can Be Done About Floaters?

Floaters may interfere with clear vision, when reading and can be annoying.
Although there is no treatment or cure for most floaters, they usually diminish by themselves over time.
You can take simple measure to temporarily move them from your sight.
If a floater appears directly in your line of vision, try moving your eye around.

What Cause Flashing Lights?

When the vitreous rubs or pulls the retina, it sometimes produces the illusion of flashing lights.
You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen ‘stars’.
The flashes of light may appear of and on for several weeks and commonly occur more frequently as we grow older.
On rare occasions, however, light flashes are accompained by a large number of new floaters and even a partial loss or shadowing of side vision.
When this happens, a prompt eye examination is important to determine if retinal detachment has occurred or the retina has torn.
The examination will involve a careful examination of the retina and vitreous after the pupils are dilated.
The medical examination required proper medical training.


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