Flashers & Floaters

Floaters are small specks or clouds that move through a person's field of vision. Many people find they are more noticeable when they are looking at a plain background, a blank wall, or blue sky. Floaters look like they are in front of the eye, but they are actually trapped inside, and the person is seeing the shadow the floater casts on the retina. Floaters may be shaped like dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs. They become more noticeable with age.

Causes of Floaters

The eye is filled with a clear, gelatinous fluid called the vitreous body. With age, the vitreous gel inside the eye thickens and shrinks, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. It may also pull away from the back wall of the eye causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This detachment causes small amounts of bleeding that can create floaters. Floaters are more common in people who are nearsighted, who have had a cataract operation or YAG laser surgery of the eye, or who have inflammation inside the eye. They may also occur as a result of eye disease, eye injury, or crystal‐like deposits that form in the vitreous. Floaters can also be caused by small pieces of protein or other material trapped in the eye during its formation.

Coping with Floaters

Floaters are not treatable, but actions can be taken to cope with them. If a floater appears, the patient can move his or her head around. This makes the fluid shift and the floaters will move out of the way. Normally people move their eyes side to side, so looking up and down may be a more effective way of making the floaters move out of the line of vision. Many floaters will fade over time.

Floater Warning signs

A few floaters don't indicate a serious eye problem. However, a sudden appearance of large numbers of floaters can indicate a problem. The person should get an eye exam as soon as possible. The sudden appearance of floaters accompanied by flashes of light or a veil over your vision may be the sign of a serious condition. Flashing lights can indicate retinal tears, hemorrhaging as a result of diabetes, or high blood pressure. These conditions are serious and require immediate attention.