Floaters are actually tiny collections of cells or gel inside the vitreous cavity in the middle of your eye. These objects look like they are in front of your eye but they are actually floating inside the middle vitreous cavity. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina (the thin nerve layer in the back of your eye that senses light and transmits this signal to your brain).

What causes floaters?

  • Usually as people reach middle age, the clear gel called the vitreous that fills the middle of the eye, starts to shrink forming clumps or strands inside the eye. As the gel ages and collapses in on itself, the vitreous separates from the retina without causing problems and creates floaters, which creates a posterior vitreous detachment.
  • Posterior vitreous detachments are more common in people who are:
    • Nearsighted
    • Have undergone cataract operations
    • Have had YAG laser surgery to clean their intraocular lenses
    • Have had inflammation inside the eye
    • Have had an injury to the eye

What causes flashes?

  • When the vitreous gel collapses over time and pulls on its attachments to the retina, this leads to the development of flashes. The thin nerve layer called the retina does not have pain sensing fibers and when pulled by the vitreous, creates an electric signal or flash.


How do you treat Flashes and Floaters?

  • Sometimes the vitreous gel pulls too hard and can tear the retina in one or more places leading to a defect where fluid may pass through and detach the retina. A torn retina is always a serious problem and can lead to a retinal
    detachment. You should contact us if:

    • Even one new floater appears suddenly
    • You see sudden flashes of light


  • Floaters are harmless and settle over time or become less bothersome, requiring no treatment. Surgery to remove floaters is almost never required but can be done if they persistently inhibit your vision.
  • Flashes can appear off and on for several weeks or months but will often fade over time.

For More Information and Educational Resources

Eye Wiki

The Eye Encyclopedia written by Eye Physicians & Surgeons, sponsored by The American Academy of Ophthalmology


Eye Health information from The American Academy of Ophthalmology

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