Floaters Flashes

RETINA : Is the innermost coat lining the inside of the back part of the eyeball. It is a thin sheet of nerve tissue, which turns light into electrical signal producing image of the object focused. Retina can be compared to the film in a camera.

VITREOUS : is a jelly like material that fills most of the space inside the eyeball.  Vitreous is normally loosely adherent to the retina providing support and nutrition to the retina. With age, the vitreous often liquefies & separates from retina. This is more likely to occur & occurs earlier in eyes that are myopic (minus numbers). It can also occur after injury to eye or inflammation in the eye or following eye surgery.

FLOATERS :  appears  as  small black  specks, lines  or ‘cobwebs’  in  front  of  the  eyes  and  moves  with  the movement of the eye. They more prominent against bright and plain background.

Floaters are seen due to shadow cast by small clumps of materials in vitreous, appearing due to liquefaction of vitreous from number of causes, commonest being aging process.

FLASHES : are sensations of light (lightening streaks), when no flashing light is actually present. Flashes may be more obvious with the movement of the eye or in darkness.

Flashes are caused due to pull by vitreous gel on the retina it separates from the retina. These flashes usually last for few seconds, but occur repeatedly and at varying frequency.

SIGNIFICANCE OF FLASHES AND FLOATERS:  Presence of one or two floaters is a common phenomenon & usually represents normal aging change of vitreous. However, sudden onset of new floater or many floaters may indicate development of more serious changes in retina. The onset of flashes may also be serious as it indicates pull on retina.

Anyone with FLASHES or SUDDEN ONSET OF NEW FLOATERS should undergo prompt dilated Indirect Ophthalmoscopic evaluation of retina.

TREATMENT:  Flashes  go away  without any treatment  within  days  or week as soon as the vitreous is completely separated from retina. This may be true even in presence of retinal tear or detachment. Therefore it is important to be examined even if flashes go away on their own.

Floaters last longer than flashes. Gradually they disturb less over weeks or months. The only treatment is to learn to ignore them. If a large floater appears direct in line of vision, best is to move the eye up and down which will move the floater out of the way.