Floaters and Flashes
Small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision as
you look at a blank wall or a clear blue sky are known as floaters. Most people
have some floaters normally but do not notice them until they become numerous
or more prominent.
In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging
process. Floaters look like cobwebs, squiggly lines or floating bugs, and
appear to be in front of the eye, but are actually floating inside. As we get
older, the vitreous-the clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the
eye-tends to shrink slightly and detach from the retina, forming clumps within
the eye. What you see are the shadows these clumps cast on the retina, the
light-sensitive nerve layer lining the back of the eye.
The appearance of flashing lights comes from the traction
of the vitreous gel on the retina at the time of vitreous separation. Flashes
look like twinkles or lightning streaks. You may have experienced the same
sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen stars.
Floaters can get in the way of clear vision, often when
reading. Try looking up and then down to move the floaters out of the way.
While some floaters may remain, many of them will fade over time.
Floaters and flashes are sometimes associated with retinal
tears. When the vitreous shrinks it can pull on the retina and cause a tear. A
torn retina is a serious problem. It can lead to a retinal detachment and
blindness. If new floaters appear suddenly or you see sudden flashes of light,
see an ophthalmologist immediately.
Here is a short movie about Flashes and Floaters: