Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and flashers can be the result of sudden vision changes. The vitreous, or jelly-like material that fills the large central cavity of the eye, is normally connected to the retina. With age, the watery portion of the vitreous separates from the fibrous portions. As this occurs, the fibrous elements contract and can pull the vitreous away from the retina, causing detachment. Contraction on the retina can be responsible for flashers. The floaters are frequently caused by the fibrous elements changing position during the detachment. They can also be caused by pieces of the retina being dislodged as the vitreous contracts. Besides aging-related posterior vitreous detachment, flashers and floaters are also associated with nearsightedness and injuries to the eye.

Treatment for Floaters and Flashers

All patients who have experienced a recent onset of flashers and floaters should be examined immediately by their eye doctors. Most of the time nothing unusual is found, the flashers eventually subside, and the floaters diminish with time. However, in about 10 percent of the patients with a posterior vitreous detachment, there is also a retinal tear. If left untreated, such tears may lead to full retinal detachment — a very serious, sight-threatening condition that requires a major surgical procedure to repair. Therefore, when symptoms such as flashers and floaters appear, it is important to examine the eye within a day of their onset.