Floaters and Flashers – Eye Health

Do you sometimes see small specks or clouds moving around your field of vision? You may have what are called "floaters" or eye floaters. You may often see them when you are looking at a plain background such as the sky or a blank wall.

So what are floaters and why do they occur? Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous of the eye. This is the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the eye. While floaters appear to be in front of the eye, they are actually inside this vitreous fluid of the eye.

You are seeing shadows cast by the retina, which is the layer of cells lining the back of the eye which senses light and allows you to see. Floaters can come in different shapes such as dots, circles, lines, cobwebs or clouds. You can not "rub them out" since they are not actually found in the front of your eye.

So why do you get these floaters? There are different reasons why floaters may occur. Sometimes as people grow older, the vitreous gel may thicken or shrink which causes clumps or strands inside the eye. Then the gel can pull away from the back of the eye and cause what is called a posterior vitreous detachment.

This condition is more common in people who:

  • have undergone cataract operations
  • have had inflammation inside the eye
  • have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • are nearsighted

if you experience floaters or a sudden change in your floaters, particularly the sudden appearance of them in people over 45, you should see your eye doctor right away. The ophthalmologist can help you determine the causeof your floaters and how serious the condition is.