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Floaters & Flashing Lights

In front of the retina lies the vitreous humor. The vitreous is the jelly-like material that fills the large central cavity of the eye. It is composed primarily of water, but it is also made up of proteins and other substances which are more fibrous. The water and fibrous elements together give the vitreous the consistency of gelatin.

The vitreous is normally connected to the retina. During aging, 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. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment. The contraction of the retina is responsible for the characteristic flashers that often accompany a posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters are frequently caused by the fibrous elements changing position during a detachment. They can also be caused by pieces of the retina being dislodged as the vitreous contracts. Besides aging, floaters and flashers are also associated with nearsightedness and injuries to the eye.

Patients who experience a recent onset of floaters and flashers should be examined immediately by their eye doctor the very next morning. Usually nothing unusual is found, and simple reassurance is all that is needed. The flashers eventually go away, and the floaters diminish and become less bothersome with time.

In about 10% of the patients with a posterior vitreous detachment, a tear of the retina is found. If left untreated, these tears may lead to a full retinal detachment. A retinal detachment is a serious, sight-threatening condition requiring a major surgical procedure to repair (click here to read more about retinal detachment). It is important to examine the eye within a day of the onset of symptoms. Changes can occur rapidly, and time is of essence if a retinal detachment is present.

Dangerous Symptoms |  Laser Surgery |  Site Map | Meet Our Doctors  |  Map  | Forms | Photos 

 Home | Patient Education | Patient Instructions | Laser FAQ | Cataract FAQ | About Our Doctors
Pfoff Laser and Eye, 6881 South Yosemite Street | Centennial, Colorado 80112 | 303-588-7900|