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Flashes and Floaters

Many people will experience floaters in their vision at some time. In most cases, this is a normal change that occurs inside the eye. It is referred to as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). The vitreous is a gel-like substance inside the eye. It is connected to the retina in the back of the eye, but over time the vitreous shrinks and detaches from the retina. As the vitreous is detaching and pulling on the retina, patients may notice small flashes or streaks of light in their vision from the traction. Once the vitreous and retina separate, small pieces of the vitreous clump together and float around inside the vitreous. As light enters the eye, these small clumps cast shadows on the retina which we see as small dark spots, or floaters. These floaters will typically fade or go away over time.

In some instances, flashes and floaters can be an indication of something much more serious. As the vitreous is pulling away from the retina, there is a chance that it could cause a small rip or tear in the retinal tissue. If this occurs, fluid inside the eye can get under the retinal tissue and form a retinal detachment. Typically if this happens, patients will see flashing lights, a lot of floaters throughout their vision, and/or a curtain blocking part of their vision. While this is not common, it could lead to permanent vision loss. That is why it is always recommended to have a dilated eye exam when you start seeing floaters or flashes in your vision.

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