Most instances of floaters are normal. As we age, the vitreous gel in our eyes undergoes certain changes, like becoming watery. These changes can cause particles to form in the vitreous gel. The shadows cast upon your retina by the particles leads to the appearance of flashes and floaters.
Changes in vitreous gel can cause:
- Clumps of protein. The shadows of protein particles can look like threads, squiggles, circles or cobwebs. These floaters tend to be permanent, and you may begin to notice them less as time passes.
- Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Sometimes, the vitreous gel can pull away from the retina. When this happens, the thicker debris near the retina may drift toward the center of the vitreous gel, casting shadows on the retina.
- Pull on the retina. Thickened vitreous gel may pull on the retina, causing you to experience flashes or flickers of light, or lightening-like streaks. PVD is likely present when these flashes are accompanied by floaters.
In rare instances, the pulling force of vitreous gel can cause a tear in the retina, which can lead to retinal detachment. This condition is serious and requires immediate medical attention. Retinal detachment is often accompanied by:
- A sudden onset of numerous flashes and floaters.
- Blurred vision.
- A curtain obscuring your peripheral vision.
Although an abnormal onset may signal retinal detachment, most of the time flashes and floaters do not require medical attention. Oftentimes the flashes and floaters will go away or you will stop noticing them.
If you live in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area and are concerned about your flashes and floaters, please contact the experienced eye doctors at Silverstein Eye Centers to schedule a consultation.