Floaters and Flashes:

Floaters are small and semi-transparent or cloudy particles that float within the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the inside of the eye. 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 seen when you look at a plain lighted background like a blank pastel wall, a blue sky, or the white pages of a book.

There are a number of possible causes of floaters. They may be small flecks of protein or matter that were trapped during the formation of your eyes before birth and remain suspended in the clear fluid. More commonly, they occur as we age: the vitreous thickens and clumps, floaters result from the clumped vitreous gel, and can also form from dead cells that are shed as new cells are created.

Sometimes flashes or streaks of light may appear. This may be happening because the jelly-like vitreous is shrinking and pulling on the retina (in red). This can indicate a serious condition such as a retinal detachment. The retina can tear when the shrinking vitreous pulls away from the wall of the eye.

Floaters by themselves are usually harmless, but when accompanied by flashes or steaks of light can be symptoms of a retinal detachment and should be quickly seen by your eye care professional.





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