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Floaters & Flashes of Light

What is it?

Floaters are seeing of flying black particles in front of the eye. Typically they appear as some dust particle flying in front of the eye. They are usually visible in moderate light and not seen in very dark light. They may vary in number and may occasionally disappear.

Why floaters develop?

Floaters are because of some particles in the jelly of the eye called vitreous. Normal vitreous is jelly-like occupying the back part of eye. Due to ageing process, it liquefies in the center hence gets separated from the retina. This condition is called posterior vitreous detachment. This gives rise to sensation of floaters or flashes. Occasionally, in this process it may tear the retina creating retinal hole or bleeding into vitreous retinal hole or bleeding into vitreous leading to vitreous haemorrhage. This is more common in myopia and post cataract surgery.

What is its importance?

In some cases it could be an early symptom of serious eye disease.

What to do if you see floaters?

Your eyes should be examined in detail at least once, because you may have a retinal problem. Majority of patients don't need any treatment except follow-ups. Very rarely there may be a retinal hole or vitreous hemorrhage and you may need to undergo treatment for that.

Advice to the patient seeing floaters: (After eye checkup)

  • Try to ignore them. They will settle down with passage of time.
  • Keep the track of number of floaters. If the number suddenly increases or their shape drastically alters, then consult your eye surgeon immediately.
  • If floaters are associated with flashes, then you should consult immediately.

Flashes of Light

What is it?

It is a symptom in which patient sees sparks of light in some portion of his visual field. Flashes are seen more commonly in dark as in late evening, night or in early morning.

What is its importance?

Flashes are premonitory symptom of impending or early retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is one of the serious diseases of the eye. It is important to consult your eye surgeon if you notice flashes.

It is because of certain changes in vitreous (liquid of eye) known as posterior vitreous detachment. There is a retinal tear or hole formation, which leads to retinal detachment.

So, every patient complaining of flashes should be examined on the urgent bases because there could be retinal detachment.

The site of visible flashes gives clue to the part of retina, which is diseased. Usually it is in the side opposite to where the retinal detachment is impending or has occurred.

Why these flashes are seen?

These flashes of light are seen because of movements and stretching of the retina during detachment which gives some sensations to the retinal receptors and give rise to the sensation of flashes.

What to do if you see flashes?

Immediately consult your eye surgeon to find out the cause of flashes. If retinal detachment has occurred, it may need to be repaired surgically. If not, regular follow up is necessary to check if retinal detachment develops later.