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Causes of Flashes and Floaters

Retina Associates

Retina Associates of Tucson, Arizona, accepts patients with both routine and complex retinal issues. For patients with flashes and floaters in their vision, ophthalmologist Dr. Cameron Javid, who is a retina specialist, and his colleagues at Retina Associates provide patient education as well as assessment and treatment options.

As people age, they often report seeing what are colloquially known as flashes and floaters. The former, as the name indicates, consists of streaks or flashes of light with no apparent external cause, while the latter is best described as squiggles or dots that appear to hover in the air but are not present outside the body. These phenomena affect approximately 70 percent of adults by the age of 70. People mace have floaters when they are young but between the age of 45-65 a sudden release of the vitreous occurs and new floaters are present requiring a retinal exam.

Flashes and floaters most often develop as a natural result of shrinkage of the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the interior of the eyeball. As this gel shrinks and softens, strands of protein may come loose and cast a shadow onto the retina as light travels through the eyeball. Similar shadows may also occur when shrinkage of the vitreous gel tugs on the retinal blood vessels, or when the vitreous pulls away from the retina itself.
In most cases, flashes and floaters do not indicate a serious medical problem and may resolve on their own. If multiple flashes or floaters develop abruptly, however, it may indicate that the vitreous gel has caused a retinal tear or retinal detachment. . Although rare, this is a serious medical condition and indicates a need for surgery.

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