Gene Wyll, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Surgeon and Contact Lens Specialist

Floaters and Flashes

What is a Floater?

You may sometimes see small spots or webs that move across your field of vision.  These are most easily seen against a white background, or outside on a bright day.  These floaters are actually particles of protein floating in the vitreous fluid that fills most of the eye.

What causes Floaters?

As we age, the vitreous fluid undergoes biochemical changes which result in clumping of the previously gel-like vitreous fluid and these clumps are seen as floaters.  Sometimes, the vitreous can abruptly shrink or collapse, pulling loose from its attachment to the surface of the retina.  This is called posterior vitreous detachment and is a common cause of large floaters.

What causes Flashing Lights?

As the vitreous gel collapses, it pulls on the surface of the retina, and this traction stimulates the retinal nerve cells resulting in flashes of light.  These are typically more often seen in dim lighting or darkness.  While this traction occurs, and the light flashes persist, there is a risk of developing a retinal tear.

Are Floaters and Light Flashes a serious problem?

In most cases, floaters do not indicate a serious eye problem.  However, when the vitreous collapses and pulls loose from the retina, the traction on the surface of the retina can result in a retinal tear, bleeding, or even a retinal detachment.  Therefore, the sudden onset of new floaters and/or flashes of light can be a warning sign of a potentially serious eye problem that should be checked by Dr. Wyll.

What should I do if I have developed a Floater and/or Light Flashes?

If you have developed floaters and/or light flashes, you should promptly schedule an appointment.  Dr. Wyll will perform a complete dilated eye exam for evaluation of your eyes.  He will inspect all areas of the retina to determine whether or not there is a problem that might require treatment.

How is a Floater treated?

Most floaters fade over time and either totally disappear or become much less noticeable.  However, if a retinal tear occurs, this can necessitate treatment to seal the tear before it develops into a more serious problem.


610 North Coit, Suite 2115 Richardson, Texas 75080    Telephone 214-575-4455    Fax  972-918-0480

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