The vitreous humor is the clear gel like substance that makes up two thirds of the eyes total volume. The vitreous is a transparent, colorless, mass that fills the space between the lens of the eye and the retina. At a young age the vitreous is perfectly clear, but as time passes imperfections gradually develop. As the vitreous degenerates floaters begin to appear, these are due to the build up over time of cellular debris. Floaters become visible when they cast shadows on the retina.
Although the appearance of a few floaters is relatively common, the sudden onset of numerous new floaters may signal an abnormal pulling of the retina by the vitreous. This condition is known as vitreous detachment. When this happens is can be accompanied by the appearance of lightning like flashes at the periphery of the patients vision.
These brief streaks of light are usually seen especially at night or when the head or eyes are turned. These flashes are caused by the vitreous pulling on the retina. In some instances these flashes can be the signs of retinal tearing and can result in retinal detachment and blindness if not treated properly.
The most important step in promoting retinal health is to have a through dilated eye exam performed by your Newsom Eye doctor. When detected early, retinal damage can usually be corrected using one of several state of the art procedures. If you’re experiencing floater or flashes contact Newsom Eye today for an exam.
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What are floaters & flashes?
Floaters are small specks, fibers, or bug-like objects that may appear to move in front of your eye. At times they may appear like a veil or cloud moving in the vision. They are frequently seen when looking at a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cellular debris within the jelly-like (vitreous) that fills the inside of the eye.
Flashes are brief streaks of light that are usually seen off to the side, especially at night when you turn your head or eyes. Flashes are caused by vitreous gel pulling on the retina with eye movement.
What do these symptoms mean?
Although many people have occasional floaters or flashes of light, the sudden onset of many new floaters with or without flashes is an important sign of abnormal pulling on the retina by the vitreous. In some instances, the retina tears and may cause blindness from detachment of the retina.
What should be done about these symptoms?
The most important step is to have a thorough dilated eye examination. The eye doctor will check for the presence of a tear in the retina. If a tear is found, laser or cryopexy is usually recommended to decrease the chances of blindness from retinal detachment. If a retinal detachment is found, more extensive surgery is required in attempt to repair it.
What should I be on the lookout for?
After examination or treatment, any new floaters or any loss of side vision should be reported to the doctor without delay. Sometimes, new tears or a retinal detachment can occur at a later date after the examination.