Flashes and floaters are caused by age-related

changes in the gel-like material, called “vitreous,”


that fills the back two thirds of the normal eyeball, between the lens and the retina. As you get older, the vitreous becomes thinner and more watery. This allows some clumps and strands to move around inside the eye. This floating material can cast a shadow on the retina, which you see as floating spots.

The vitreous is attached to the back of the eye, the retina. As it pulls away from the retina, we can see flashes of light which tend to be most noticeable in a very dark room, especially when you move your eyes or head suddenly. After a time, the aging vitreous shrinks into a dense mass of gel in the middle of the eyeball, called a “PVD” or “posterior vitreous detachment”. Shadows cast onto the retina cause you to see large floaters or cobwebs. Vitreous floaters will usually be most noticeable when you are looking at a plain, bright background like a bright white wall or a clear blue sky.

Flashes and floaters can be very alarming. In most cases, however, a thorough eye examination by Dr. Konowal will reveal them to be harmless changes that do not require treatment. They generally become less noticeable over time.

In rare cases of new posterior vitreous detachment, your medical examination may reveal a more serious problem called a “retinal tear” or “retinal hole.” Retinal tears and holes can occur when the vitreous separates from its attachments to the retina so forcefully, that it rips the retina. Retinal tears and holes or retinal detachment, require urgent medical attention and are most successfully treated when detected right away.

Using special instruments to look into the eyes, an ophthalmologist can distinguish between a harmless posterior vitreous detachment and more serious retinal problems. The usual symptoms of a retinal hole, tear or detachment include seeing hundreds of small floating spots, persistent flashing lights, or a veil-like blockage of a portion of the vision. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call Dr. Konowal right away.