Flashes and Floaters- What Patients Should Know

February 7, 2011

Everyone, starting in their 50’s, will experience floaters, sometimes with flashes. Everyone. It’s a normal process. The gel that fills the eye (the vitreous) is very firm and doesn’t move when we are younger, but it becomes more liquidy as we get older, and it finally separates from the back wall of the eye and starts to swish around. So the floater you see is the gel moving around the eye. Upon separation, it tugs on the retina- those are the flashes.

Ninety nine percent of the time, it’s perfectly safe. Sometimes, the retina gets torn and requires laser to seal it so the retina doesn’t come off (retinal detachment), which is a surgical emergency. So we advise seeing an ophthalmologist within 24-48 hours of onset of symptoms. Typically, with time, the floaters become less and less noticeable. Rarely, some patients are so bothered, we use a laser to break up the gel so it is less noticeable.




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