The Eye

ACS Eye Specialist Centre
95G & 97G Jalan TKS 1,
Taman Kajang Sentral,
43000 Kajang,
Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: 03-82116078

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Floaters & Flashes

What is the usual cause for floaters and flashes?

Within our eyeball, there is a gel like substance called the vitreous. When we are born this gel is firmly attached to the retina, which is located at the back of our eyeball. As we age, this gel thins out and may separated from the retina. The term for this separation is called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and this is part of our aging process.

Sometimes when the vitreous separates from the retina, the tugging action may cause one to experience flashes, likened to see lightning within the eye. Floaters are caused by the bits of vitreous gel that cast shadows on the retina.

Other more serious causes of flashes and floaters include retinal tears, retinal detachment, infection, inflammation, hemorrhage or injuries to the eye. Migraines may also be preceeded by flashes of light.

What does one experience when one has flashes and floaters?
* Black lines or spots that seem to float in the vision in a cluster or alone
* Spots that move or remain suspended in one place
* Flickering or flashing lights that are most prominent when looking at a bright background like a clear, blue sky

When will I know whether I should see a eye doctor immediately?
If one experiences :
* Sudden decrease of vision along with flashes and floaters
* Veil or curtain that obstructs part or all of the vision
* Sudden increase in the number of floaters

What will the eye doctor do to determine the cause of flashes or floaters?
After checking your vision, the doctor will dilate your pupils with eye drops so the vitreous and retina can be examined thoroughly with special equipment. After dilating, your vision will be blurred temporarily.

What treatment is indicated?
As PVD is a usually a physiological occurrence associated with age, treatment is rarely required. After a while, the floaters may move to the periphery where you will not notice them as much. Only if there is visually disabling floaters, then surgery may be considered as an option.

However is the flashes and floaters is associated with retinal detachment, then surgical treatment is necessary.

Because of the risk, surgery is rarely indicated for PVD except when the floaters obscure the vision. In these cases, surgical removal of the vitreous (vitrectomy) may be considered only if the vision is significantly affected. This treatment is rarely needed since floaters typically become less bothersome over a period of weeks to months as they settle below the line of sight. However, vitrectomy may be indicated in a select group of patients with visually disabling vitreous floaters, as long as an objective assessment of the patient's visual disfunction from the floaters is made.

If the flashes and floaters are related to a problem other than a PVD, surgical treatment may be required.

Be proactive and monitor your vision by covering one eye at a time and looking out for any visual loss or new changes in the floaters in each eye. See your doctor should you develop any new symptoms or changes