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Floaters and Flashes

As we age, so do our eyes. By the time we reach middle age, most people will start to see small dark shapes that “float” in their field of vision; we call these floaters. These are small particles in the vitreous body of the eye (a jelly like substance inside of your eye), and these particles cast shadows on the retina, which is why you start to see dark shapes.

As well as floaters, people also may experience flashes of light. Flashes are typically caused by the vitreous body tugging on the retina. This tugging occurs when the vitreous body shrinks with age. The shrinking vitreous body often separates from the retina (posterior vitreous detachment).

Although floaters and flashes are more annoying than harmful, the sudden onset of either could be a warning of looming serious eye problems, including the possibility of tears of the retina or a detached retina.

Treatment of Floaters

If you have particularly large and persistent floaters that can obstruct your vision, they can be surgically removed using a procedure known as vitrectomy. This involves using special instruments to remove the floaters from the eye, along with some or all of the vitreous body. If the vitreous body is removed, it is usually replaced with a clear salt solution, or in rare cases, with synthetic gas or silicon oil.

Treatment of Flashes

Treatment is not required for light flashes if the retina is still intact; however if a retinal tear is present, having treatment early can prevent retinal detachment. There are two types of treatment options for this:

  • Photocoagulation (laser treatment) – the laser beam is focussed on the area of the retina that requires treatment, this makes tiny burns. When these tiny burns heal they form scar tissue which seals the tear
  • Cryotherapy (freezing treatment) – a probe is applied to the outside of the eye and the extreme cold then freezes through to the retinal tear. The scar tissue then seals the tear

If you feel like you are suffering with persistent floaters or light flashes, or would like more information about the condition, please give us a call today on (02) 9868 2333.