Floaters and Flashes

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The vitreous is a clear, viscous gel filling the central cavity of the eye. The vitreous is essentially the remnant of the framework around which the eye formed before we were born. After birth, the vitreous is no longer needed and, by middle age, this gel has begun to shrink. Such shrinkage is a normal aging process which causes the vitreous to eventually detach from the retina. We may then see shadows cast on the retina by the more confluent clumps of the remaining gel. Such visual spots are often called “floaters”. Although floaters may be benign, the sudden onset of many such spots suggests that the retina could have been damaged by the detachment process perhaps causing retinal holes or tears to develop (see retinal detachment above). Vitreous pulling on the retina may lead to the perception of flashing lights or lightning-looking light streaks. If you notice the sudden appearance of new floaters and/or light flashes, it is advisable to consult one of our ophthalmologists as soon as possible.