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Flashes and Floaters

What are Floaters?

Floaters are small specks that float within the jelly of the eye. They typically move around and may be more visible when looking at a plain background in bright light.

Floaters are tiny clumps of tissue inside the vitreous (vi-tree-us). The vitreous is the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. 

Floaters sometimes look like tiny insects buzzing around outside, but they are actually floating inside the eye.  What you see are the shadows they cast on the back of the eye when bright light shines on them.

Floaters can have different shapes such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.

What causes floaters?

In young people, floaters are caused by small clumps of tissue in the vitreous and are typically harmless. In middle age people, floaters may be caused by a condition called PVD (posterior vitreous detachment).

What is a posterior vitreous detachment?

When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel inside of the eye starts to shrink.  The vitreous gel eventually pulls on the back of the eye and may cause flashes of light. Eventually, the vitreous pulls completely off of the retina and frequently a small amount of tissue is pulled off the back of the eye as well. This small amount of tissue is visible as a large floater and is called a PVD (posterior vitreous detachment.)

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common in people who:

  • Are nearsighted;

  • Have undergone cataract operations;

  • Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye;

  • Have had inflammation inside the eye.

Are floaters ever serious?

In some cases, floaters can be a warning sign for a retinal detachment; therefore, you should call for an appointment right away if you suddenly develop new floaters. In some cases, the floaters may be associated with flashes of light, which can also be a warning sing for a retinal detachment.

The retina sometimes gets torn as the jelly pulls off during a POSTERIOR VITREOUS DETACHMENT and this can lead to a retinal detachment. This process can also cause bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters.

A torn retina is a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment.  You should see Dr. D as soon as possible if:

  • New floaters appears suddenly;

  • You see sudden flashes of light.

  • You notice a loss of your side or central vision

What can be done about floaters?

In most cases, floaters are completely harmless, and more of a nuisance than a real problem. However, because of the risk of a retinal detachment, any new floaters need to be evaluated to rule out a retinal tear or detachment.

Floaters will typically fade over time without treatment. Floaters can be removed surgically by a process called vitrectomy, however, this procedure is rarely performed for floaters because the floaters tend to resolve on their own over time. 

SEECA Dilation Protocol

Dilation is very time consuming. To dramatically decrease our patient’s wait time, we recommend that our patient’s arrive at our clinic with their eyes already dilated for their next appointment.  Your eyes will be dilated for an extended ophthlmoscopy to check for retinal holes or tears. You have a one in a million chance of having a hole or tear.

You will be given a sample of dilating drops or a prescription for dilating drops before you leave today:

  1. One drop to BOTH eyes 1 hours before the visit.

  2. One drop to BOTH eyes ½ hour before the visit.  


It is NOT mandatory that you use these drops before your visit, but if we have to dilate your eyes after you arrive at the office, it will increase your office visit time by about 1 hour.   

You may be more comfortable having a driver come with you for this procedure because dilation can cause blurred vision temporarily.   

Thank you so much for helping us in this process. We are dedicated to giving you the best care possible and saving your sight

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