Flashes And Floaters

Flashes And Floaters Specialist
Dr. Alan Wagner and Dr. Kapil Kapoor at the Wagner Macula & Retina Center serve the residents of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia & North Carolina. The doctors are board-certified ophthalmologists who specialize in flashes and floaters along with surgeries used to correct many eye disorders.

Flashes and Floaters Q & A

What are floaters?

You may sometimes see small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are time clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear gel-like laid that fills the inside of your eye.

Although the floaters appear to be in front of the eye, they are actually floating in the virtuous fluid inside the eye.

While these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside of it. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina, the layers of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. Floaters can appear as different shapes, such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs.

What causes floaters?

When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strand inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters.

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common in people who:
Are nearsighted;
Have undergone cataract surgery;
Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye;
Have had inflammation inside the eye.

The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop very suddenly. You should always contact the Wagner Macula & Retina Center right away if you develop new floaters, especially if you are over 45 years of age.

Are floaters ever serious?

The retina can tear if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters. A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment. 

You should schedule an appointment with us if:
Even one new floater appears suddenly;
You see sudden flashes of light

If you notice other symptoms, like loss of side vision, you should call us immediately at 757-481-4400.

Can floaters be removed?

Floaters may be a symptom of a tear in the retina, which is a serious problem. If a retinal tear is not treated, the retina may detach from the back of the eye. The only treatment for a detached retina is surgery.

Other floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome, requiring no treatment. Surgery to remove floaters is almost never required. Vitamin therapy will not cause floaters to disappear. Even if you have had floaters for years, you should schedule an eye exam with us!

What causes flashing lights?

When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars”. 

The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, it is more common to experience flashes. If you notice the sudden appearance of light flashes, you should immediately contact us in case your retina has been torn. 

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