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Flashers and Floaters- Eye Annoyance

October 17, 2008

If you're seeing a floating spot you are not alone. Many people experience these floating spots and don't know what they are. They can be alarming and mostly annoying, but fortunately they're usually harmless.How Do They Occur?

As you get older, you may suddenly begin to see a large floater. "As part of the normal aging process, the vitreous jelly in your eye gets more watery and begins to separate from the back of the eye or retina. After separating, the vitreous jelly moves forward, floating in the middle of the eye cavity, causing the sensation of a larger floater", says Cary M. Silverman, M.D., ophthalmologist and Medical Director of OCLI. This process is called vitreous detachment and is most common after the age of 55.

What Are The Symptoms?

Floaters can appear suddenly and have many shapes and sizes. They can look like little bugs, threads or cobwebs. They usually flit away when you try and look at them and are more noticeable in bright light. Sometimes floaters are accompanied by a sensation of flashing lights.

How Are They Treated?

Normally floaters are harmless and don't require treatment. Although, they may never go away completely, they tend to become less noticeable with time.

"Very rarely, the vitreous jelly pulls on the retina hard enough to tear it, " explains Dr. Silverman. "This is a potentially serious problem that usually requires treatment. Without treament, fluid could leak through the hole and cause the retina to detach, and detached retinas usually requires surgical treament."

The warning signs of a retinal hole or detachment include seeing many new flashing lights or showers of many floaters, blurred vision, or a curtain-like blockage of vision. It is unlikely that you will experience these symptoms. But, if you do, it is very important to call your doctor right away.

Dr. Silverman reminds all of his patients, "For most people a floater is a nuisance requiring no treatment at all."

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