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Eye Floaters and Flashes
What are eye floaters and flashes? Eye floaters are described as dots or squiggly lines that are seen in the field of vision, especially when looking at a bright background such as the sky or the sea. What is actually seen is not the particle (i.e. the floaters) but the shadow that this particle casts. The particle can be an aggregation of proteins that have precipitated out of solution (within the vitreous humour), debris that gets stuck in the eye or even tiny specks of blood. These particles are usually positioned towards the middle of the eye, between the lens and the retina. Eye floaters are more common in older adults, although they may occur in anyone.

Flashes may be seen in combination with eye floaters or on their own. What is seen is literally flashes of light that occur spontaneously and in a random fashion. The cause of flashes is usually the rubbing action of the vitreous humor (the gel-like solution in the eye) against the retina, or the pulling action of this solution on the retina. Flashes may manifest themselves for weeks or months, and the interval between flashes is usually haphazard.

You should see a doctor or ophthalmologist as soon as you develop eye floaters and/or flashes. Although eye floaters are usually benign, they can be a symptom of a serious underlying condition, especially if they are present in combination with flashes. For example, they may be an indication that the retina is being pulled at, and untreated this can lead to a retinal tear and possibly blindness. In addition, if the floaters you see are black in color, this may mean that your floaters are specks of blood, resulting from a burst blood vessel. You should also check with a doctor or ophthalmologist again if your eye floaters suddenly change in number or density, or if you start seeing flashes more frequently than before.


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