What are Floaters and Flashes?
Floaters are a symptom of the natural aging of the vitreous gel in the eye. The eyeball is filled with gel and liquid. As we grow older, the gel becomes more liquid. When this happens, floaters can develop within the gel/liquid interface. They are a type of scar tissue that develops in the gel.This appears as dark spots that move around in the vision with eye movements. They can look like any shape, from little bugs to long strands or veils in the vision. Over time we get used to them and they become less apparent and even “disappearing.” Nearly everyone gets floaters by the age of 65 years old, but not everybody notices them.
However, floaters can be a sign that something more is going on in the eye than just natural aging. A lot of new floaters or a sudden onset of floaters may indicate that a hole or tear has developed in the retina.
Flashes of light are a warning sign that the vitreous gel is causing traction on the retina. As the gel liquefies and floaters develop, the gel can pull and tug on the retina with eye movements. When the retina is stimulated, it gives off a flash of light. The pulling and tugging of the retina can lead to holes or tears. Holes and tears can lead to retinal detachments. Seeing light flashes is an urgent sign that you need to have your eyes examined in order to detect and treat possible holes or tears in a timely fashion before they develop into a retinal detachment.
Floaters and flashes of light can happen after blunt trauma or for no apparent reason at all. Overtime, they can dissipate without intervention. Any flashes of light, new floaters or worsening of old floaters should alert you to have your eyes examined by an eye doctor.